Trauma Bonding: What Is It and How To Get Out Of It?

What is Trauma Bonding and Who Gets It?

Trauma Bond is defined as connect in an abusive relationship between the victim and the abuser. This bond starts to develop when the victim starts to develop emotional attachment or sympathy towards the abuser.  It may take days, weeks, or even months for this bond to form.  However, it is not mandatory for everyone in an abusive relationship to develop a Trauma Bond.  A classic example of Trauma Bond is the Stockholm syndrome in which a captive develops affection and feelings towards the captor[1, 2].

A research done in 2018 about this topic suggested that Trauma Bond in the form of Stockholm syndrome may start to develop when the victim starts to rationalize the actions of the abuser or captor in this case.  Trauma Bond can occur in a person of any age group, race, or gender.  People who end up with Trauma Bond are more than likely to have experienced any of the following[1]

  • Prolonged captivity in which the abuser uses control tactics along with sheer power to bring the victim to submission and unable to escape
  • A threat to the life of the victim or their loved ones like family or pets
  • Sense of independence
  • Loss of control over themselves due to the total control of the captor or abuser over the victim
  • Being isolated from the outside world except for the abuser or captor[1]

Majority of cases of Trauma Bond has been seen in people, who are victims of child abuse, domestic violence and abuse, kidnapping victims, people in prison or concentration camps, people victims of child or sex trafficking.  Read below to find out the basis of Trauma Bond and ways to break free from this[1, 2].

What Forms The Basis of Trauma Bonding?

Trauma Bonding develops as a result of attachment or dependence on a person who is the primary abuser.  What exactly forms the basis of Trauma Bonding can be best explained as[2]:

Attachment: An unhealthy attachment is the basic cause of Trauma Bonding. This is according to the data furnished by the national Domestic Violence Hotline.  Attachments are made by humans as a means of survival. This can be explained by the fact that a newborn or a baby is attached to the mother more than the father.

Children are attached to the parents and caregivers as they are dependent on them for all their needs.  Adults form attachments with people with whom they find themselves secure, comfortable, and supportive.  Trauma Bonding occurs when people find comfort and support in those who actually are abusing them.  They turn towards their abuser for comfort when they are hurt emotionally despite knowing very well that it was the same person who actually caused that emotional distress[2].

Dependence: Trauma Bonding can also develop when a victim starts to develop dependence on the person who is actually causing emotional and physical distress to them and looks towards that person for emotional support.  This can be explained by the example of a child who is dependent on a caregiver who is actually abusive in nature[2].

The child starts to gradually associate love with abuse and start believing that whatever is happening to him or her is absolutely normal. The child may not be able to differentiate between what is good and bad. Instead, these children start to blame themselves of something bad happens to them thus allowing the caregiver to continue to be abusive and still be good in the eyes of the child.  This is what forms the basis of Trauma Bonding[2].

Abusive Cycles: There are certain relationships in which the chief abuser first causes harm and then follows it with remorse, promising to change.  This gives the victim a ray of hope that things will change for good resulting in Trauma Bonding to be formed between them[2].

What Can Be Done To Get Out Of Trauma Bonding?

Trauma Bonding can be quite a challenge to break free from. Even though this may take time but it is possible to get away from an abusive relationship.  According to The National Domestic Violence Hotline people experiencing Trauma Bonding should do the following[2]:

Focus: It is quite common for victims of Trauma Bonding to hope that things will change for good and the abuser will have a change of heart.  However, it is vital to try and focus on the present scenario and try and not reflect on the good times that they may have had in the past[2].

Focus on what they are going through currently and in fact even make a diary and pen down the events happening around their lives.  It is also important to focus on the abuse that the victim is being subjected to instead of the promises of change that the abuser may speak about in the future[2].

Self-Talk: This is an important aspect of breaking free from Trauma Bonding.  It is quite common for a person to lose self-esteem after being abused to an extent that the victim feels that he or she cannot live without the abuser.  However, this can be changed with positive self-talk and finding ways to uplift the morale with more positive alternatives[2].

Self-Care: It is also important to practice self-care in Trauma Bonding.  This relieves some of the stress of the abusive relationship.  It also decreases the desire to turn to the abuser for any sort of emotional support.  Practicing meditation, prayers, exercise, and yoga are some of the best ways to relieve stress.  Working on some hobby is also of immense help.  If possible, one can also look and learn about bad relationships and how to work their way out from them[2].

Safety Planning: Planning for safety to escape from an abusive relationship and causing Trauma Bonding is important.  This includes steps to protect them in case of an emergency.  These may be places which are safe to go along with their children and pets.  It is also essential to have contact numbers and addresses on hand of people who can provide support[2].

Having numbers of local support groups is also quite useful in emergency situations when the victim wants to break free from the abuser and get rid of Trauma Bonding.  Additionally, it is important to make a plan of a place to stay safely, money that will be required, and find a work at that city or country[2].

Recovery: It takes quite a bit of time for a person to get over with Trauma Bonding and the abuse with which it is associated.  It can dent the mental as well as physical health of the victim. To get over it is quite challenging and requires constant support.  Mentioned below are some approaches which can be effective in getting over Trauma Bonding[2].

  • Therapy: Once a person gets over an abusive relationship, there is an overwhelming sense of loss, grief, and pain. This is where a psychologist can be of help.  A good counseling session may all that may be needed to get back on tract and resume normal life free of stress and terror.  The therapist provides the required space to talk freely about the thoughts going on in mind, feelings, and the forgetful experiences the victim has gone through.  A good counseling session is also helpful in overcoming certain mental disorders that creep in due to trauma bonding like PTSD[2]. 
  • Support Groups: Getting connected with a support group is also extremely effective when it comes to breaking free from Trauma Bonding. These groups provide space to the victim to share their thoughts and experiences with others.  This helps relax the mind and also reminds the person that he or she is not the only one and there are people who care.  The person may also get useful tips on how to stay safe and advice on steps to take to move forward in life[2]. 
  • Medication: Anxiety and depression is common in people who develop Trauma Bonding. In such cases, it is essential to take medications to keep the mind calm and relieve other symptoms of anxiety and depression.  Anxiolytics and antidepressants will be given for people experiencing Trauma Bonding for faster relief of symptoms[2].

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