What is Trauma Bonding?

What is trauma bonding? This phenomenon is more commonly known as Stockholm Syndrome. Trauma bonding occurs when a victim caught in the abuse cycle becomes dependent on their abuser physically, psychologically, and socially, making it more difficult to escape the abuse as time goes on.

As a therapist, I have done research on the abuse cycle because to me, it’s not completely logical. Common sense tells us that if something or someone is hurting you, that you should get away from it. You know, self-preservation. Unfortunately, life doesn’t always follow logic. Because of various forces at play, those trapped in the abuse cycle often end up circling the drain, which can have deadly consequences.

At the start, the abuse cycle does not occur instantly. Abusive people often begin relationships as loving, supportive, and seemingly safe people. The abuser’s more narcissistic qualities begin to emerge over time. Meanwhile, the lovey-doveyness of the relationship clouds the victim’s awareness of the red flags; for example, verbal abuse, neglect, unkept promises, manipulation, recklessness, etc.

Humans are designed to be relational beings, so we naturally bond with others. As the abuse cycle continues, victims find it harder to leave as they cling to the loving attributes that attracted them to the abuser in the first place. It’s like they endure the bad times in hopes that they’ll somehow get a glimpse of the better days.

Wishful thinking…

Research supports that trauma bonding operates on the brain in the same way that drug addiction does. Just like an addict chases after the feeling of their first high, victims endure abuse in hopes that the good times will return. Meanwhile, the person becomes their abuser’s emotional victim. Their self-esteem plummets and they begin to lose their identity as they continue to circle the drain. The abuser gets stronger and more controlling as the victim gets weaker and more hopeless.

Sounds like a tragedy, right? Well, it is.

In my work as a therapist, I have encountered trauma bonding on numerous occasions and breaking the abuse cycle is definitely easier said than done. It takes a lot of hard work, courage, and support to rise above trauma bonding and abuse. But there is hope!

If you or someone you know is caught in the abuse cycle, there is help available. In the US, there is a hotline for domestic violence that can be reached at 1.800.799.7233. You can also find a therapist by going to therapytribe.com, therapyden.com, or therapyroute.com.

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