What are Trauma Bonds? - Mental Health With Kamini Wood

What are Trauma Bonds?

what are traumatic bonds woman crying

While the term bonding typically refers to a positive experience of forming a close relationship with someone, particularly after spending time together or going through a really good or very stressful experience together, trauma bonding represents emotional attachment to an abuser. In trauma bonds, a victim tends to mistake abuse for love, remaining loyal to the abuser and the traumatic experience. 

The Roots of Trauma Bonds

Affection is one of the basic human needs, and this need is especially strong in childhood. So, children and young people are most at risk of forming trauma bonds because they seek the attention of their caregivers, even if caregivers are neglecting, violent, or abusive.

Trauma bonds that form through traumatic childhood experiences may impact your adult relationships and make it difficult to establish and maintain positive relationships later in life.

In childhood, trauma bonds develop through repeated abusive or traumatic experiences with the parent or other attachment figure. If you were abused in childhood, then it is most likely that you learned to associate love with abuse. In other words, unhealthy attachment in childhood means the bond rooted in fear.

The abusive relationship pattern becomes internalized, threatening to shape your relationships in adult life. Because the constant abuse in childhood caused you to feel abandoned, unloved, and unworthy, you have learned and accepted that to be loved you get abused.

Trauma Bonds in Adult Relationships

Traumatic bonds and their effect in relationships between adults

The mindset that you are not good enough may push you into a codependent relationship with a narcissistic partner.

Individuals with a narcissistic personality disorder or narcissist personality traits typically show demanding, self-centered, and manipulative behavior, always putting their needs first. They are usually controlling and emotionally abusive. Check out A Relationship with a Narcissist for more helpful information on this topic.

As long as you are meeting a narcissist’s needs, they will make you feel loved and valued. This behavior pattern allows them to use gaslighting to justify abuse as you will always blame yourself for their behavior.

Gaslighting is a manipulating strategy that abusers use to gain control and power. Gaslighting causes the victim to start doubting her or himself and questioning their reality until they become so uncertain of who they are and completely dependent on the abuser for own identity.

Codependent behavior is a common result of traumatic bonding in early childhood. You keep repeating the pattern from your childhood, denying the abuse to feel accepted and loved.

How to Recognize and Break Trauma Bonds

Trauma bonding can have a profound negative effect on your mental health and overall well-being. Early identifying trauma bonds can help you stop this pattern of unhealthy attachment and behavior.

First of all, look for the signs of abusive behavior at the beginning of a relationship. Some of the red flags may include a feeling of being controlled, constantly confused, or pressured to do something you don’t want to.

Talk to someone who you can trust to validate your thoughts and feelings. Don’t believe that you can change your partner and avoid focusing on ‘good’ in your partner when they act abusively.

Set the firm personal boundaries and seek the support you may need.

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