Mental Health Moment


Seven Ways to Break Free of a Trauma Bond

What is a trauma bond or traumatic bonding? Trauma bonding happens when someone who has been in an abusive relationship, develops strong feelings for those who have abused them. A term you may have heard is Stockholm Syndrome. The abuse may range from emotional abuse to physical abuse and sexual assault. The victim may develop an emotional connection with the abuser, which can lead to incongruent intense feelings of attachment. These bonds can be challenging to overcome the longer the victim is with their abuser. There are 2 main factors involved in establishing trauma bonds: a power imbalance, and an intermittent reinforcement of good and bad treatment. These relationships are based on intensity, domination, and unpredictability.

What are some causes?

Attachment and dependence trauma bond can be formed when a victim experiences abuse and then remorse. For example: love bombing, trust and dependency, criticism, resignation of personal control, gaslighting, loss of self/self-esteem, addiction (to the cycle of push and pull).

Another cause can be biological responses which can aid the formation of trauma bonds such as: freeze response to a threat, and a cycle of dopamine and oxytocin (A.K.A. the honeymoon phase of abuser remorse and romancing).

When you feel trapped in a trauma bond, please know there is hope and help for you.

Here are 7 ways to break free from a trauma bond:

Educate Yourself – learn the red flags of what relationships could turn into a toxic or abusive relationship, and the personality traits of an abuser. Read Patrick Carnes’ Betrayal Bond and Gavin De Becker’s The Gift of Fear.

Zero Contact – cut all contact, change your phone number, block, or quit all social media, ask friends to not give any personal information away.

Examine the Evidence – focus on what the abuser was/is doing, not what they are saying. Their words mean nothing if their behaviour never matches them.

Practice Self-Compassion – don’t blame yourself. This was not your fault. You are not stupid.

Personal Affirmations – work on self-esteem by connecting with your friends and family who support and love you. Practice positive self-talk. Treat yourself with the same kindness you would a friend.

Mindfulness – journal daily and keep your focus on the present not the past. Looking back can cloud your judgement of how bad things really were as we tend to reminisce about mostly the good.

Professional Help – look for a therapist that has the training and experience to help you overcome the challenges of leaving a toxic relationship. A therapist who will help hold you accountable in taking care of yourself, and help you build back your eroded self-esteem.