‘Trauma Bonding’: The Stockholm Syndrome of Abusive Relationships

By September 21, 2017 Rabbit Hole, Science

For many, the very notion of staying in an abusive relationship is absurd. However, despite that, people continue to stay in abusive relationships all the time, leaving many to wonder why.

While there are many answers to this question, the answer, in short, is quite simple: trauma bonding. Trauma bonding is what takes place when a person is in an abusive relationship and somehow becomes bonded to their abusive partner through their abuse. Think about it: bonding occurs when two people spend time together, however, it doesn’t matter if these times are good or if they are bad.

Regardless, you become bonded.

And bonding is much different than love, trust, or attraction. Instead, bonding is something that cannot be lost. It is a physiological reaction that takes place within the body that is similar to an addiction. What adds, even more, fuel to this fire is the fact that many people may not even realize they are being abused, due to the fact that our culture conditions us to believe that abuse is only physical, when it is much more than that.

Of course, physical abuse is a serious problem, but mental abuse is just as bad. Actually, many could consider it to be even worse, mostly because it can be harder to recognize.

Shannon Thomas, a therapist, and author of ‘Healing from Hidden Abuse’ explains this quite eloquently by comparing psychological abuse to a slow, yet poisonous IV drip. It may start off as small as an insult, causing the victim to merely brush the incident off. However, as time progresses, the abuse becomes more and more clear to the victim. Yet, they may still grapple with themselves over the situation because abusers aren’t so obvious.

Instead, many abusers will love-bomb their victim after the abuse to leave them shattered and confused. Not only have they destroyed their victim, but now, they have bombarded their victim with affection leaving them to think maybe the situation isn’t so bad. But it is. And this back and forth cycle fuels the addiction like trauma bonding that takes place.

With that being said, there are a number of signs that trauma bonding has occurred.

  1. Your partner has promised to change, yet continuously failed to fulfill this promise. However, you still believe they will change.
  2. While other people may become disturbed by your partner’s behavior, you merely brush it off as nothing.
  3. You have the same fight over and over again, and no one ever wins.
  4. You find yourself trying to make your partner be less abusive.
  5. You shuffle between periods of abuse and periods of pervasive love, yet you believe your partner truly has changed.
  6. You constantly make excuses for your abuse.
  7. You feel as though you would cease to exist without your partner.
  8. When you do actually separate from your partner, the pain is too much to bear when you are without them, so you always run right back to them.
  9. You feel as though you are stuck and HAVE to be with your partner.

Trauma bonding can occur in many different relationships, whether it is between a husband and wife, or a mother and drug-addicted child. It can be the result of narcissistic abuse or other forms of domestic abuse. Sadly, many people continue to live this way because they don’t realize their bond is wrong. For more information on trauma bonding, please visit Psych Central at the following link.


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