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What is Trauma Bonding?


Trauma bonding essentially is the bond that some people form with their abuser. This usually occurs in relationships with cyclical abuse. That is, after the abuse, the abuser showers the abused person with love and apologies. They foster a positive relationship between the abuser and the abused.


What Trauma Bonding is Not

I’ve heard lots of people casually talk about trauma bonding recently, and often in an inappropriate way. What trauma bonding is not is bonding that occurs over a shared trauma. Nor is it about striving together with someone to overcome an obstacle. It is about the compulsive cycle between abused and abuser of attempting to placate the abuser followed by abuse, then a honeymoon period where everything appears to be going well before the cycle begins again.


Situations Trauma Bonding Can Occur in

There are several different situations that have been identified that can lead to traumatic bonding. These are:

  • Domestic abuse

  • Incest

  • Kidnapping

  • Sexual abuse

  • Cults

  • Elder abuse

  • Human trafficking

These situations put the person into a situation where for survival, the abused person would benefit from having a positive relationship with their abuser. We all have a basic human need for human connection. For a sense of love and belonging. Abusers typically will isolate their victims from others, leaving only the abuser to bond with. The abuser also doles out positive reinforcement between bouts of abuse, reinforcing the positive bond and dependency.


Signs and Symptoms of Trauma Bonding

1. The abused person makes excuses for the abuser and attempts to cover for them. You might

recognize states such as:


"They behaved that way because I pushed them to it

"They wouldn't say those things to me if I didn't deserve it."


"They treat me like that because they love me."


2. You lie to family and friends about what is happening

3. You believe that the abuse is their fault

4. The abused person doesn’t feel comfortable with leaving or doesn’t feel he/she is able to leave

5. You overlook all the warning signs

6. You frequently feel drained and overwhelmed and avoid open communication


Healing from a Trauma Bond

The first thing to remember is that healing from any trauma will take time. You can’t expect to get back to your old self quickly. In fact, you may never get back to your “old self”. You may find at the end of your journey that you’ve changed and become a new person, and that’s OK.

The most important thing you can do for your recovery is to leave the abusive relationship. And know that this might be the hardest thing to do. Oftentimes, abusers can become more dangerous when you attempt to leave, so please plan carefully for your safety! Some things to consider beforehand include:


  • Start saving some money to cover the costs of living. Open a bank account in your own name that your abuser does not have access to.

  • Gather important documents such as IDs, birth certificates, social security card (and cards for any dependents as well), car title and registration, leasing agreements/mortgage documents, bank account numbers, passport, and investment account numbers.

  • Change passwords on any accounts your abuser has access to including email accounts, social media, and financial institutions. Make sure to change settings for password storage options where applicable.

  • Consider using electronic devices outside of the home which your abuser can not use to track you, like at your school or local library

  • Reach out to family or friends for support and practical support. Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline for further assistance at 800-799-7233.


Making New Connections


A hallmark of abusive relationships is isolation, so if you are recently out of an abusive relationship, make an effort to make new social connections or renew old relationships. Isolation makes you vulnerable to being abused again because if you’re isolated, you have no one to reach out to for help. Close relationships will help to protect you. Plus, they will help you to become a stronger, more resilient person.


Therapy

Therapy can be very helpful if you have a history of abuse. It can help you to recognize the thought patterns that kept you trapped in the abuse, help you to improve your self-esteem and self-confidence, help you learn about your attachment issues, and ultimately, help you to heal and be ready for healthy relationships in your future.


If you would like more information on trauma treatment, please follow the link! I’d love to hear from you.

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