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7 Stages Of Trauma Bonding (+FREE Worksheets)

7 Stages Of Trauma Bonding

Today, you’re going to discover the 7 stages of trauma bonding.

Why do people stay in abusive relationships?

Abusive relationships are extremely common.

According to statistics, one out of every four women and one out of every nine men will be abused by a partner at some point in their lives. (*)

Traumatic bonding can explain why people stay in abusive relationships.

What Is Trauma Bonding?

Trauma bonding is an emotional bond with an individual or a group of people that arise from a cyclical pattern of abuse perpetuated by intermittent reinforcement through rewards and punishments.

Traumatic experiences cause us to shut ourselves off emotionally, and to survive, our primal instincts kick in.

Trauma bonding is often associated with The Stockholm Syndrome (TSS), a psychological syndrome named after a hostage situation that took place in 1973 in Stockholm.

According to reports, the hostages formed an emotional attachment to their captors. They even made jailhouse visits to their former captors. (*)

Trauma bonding can occur in the realms of romantic relationships, parent-child relationships, cults, hostage situations, etc.

How Do You Know If You Have A Trauma Bond? 8 Signs of Trauma Bond

The following are signs that you or someone you know might be in a trauma bond:

  1. When you attempt to leave the relationship, you feel as if you physically can’t cope with being away from them.
  2. When you don’t do as your partner says, you’re given silent treatment as a punishment.
  3. You continue to trust in your partner even though they are perpetually unreliable.
  4. You do everything you can to please your partner, but you’re not getting the same treatment in return.
  5. You feel stuck in the relationship and can’t see any way out, or never considered leaving the relationship, despite unhealthy patterns.
  6. You find yourself always making excuses for their unhealthy behavior.
  7. You have constant arguments with your partner that never get resolved.
  8. Your partner is always promising you things but never delivers.

7 Stages of Trauma Bonding

Stage 1: Love bombing

At the beginning of the relationship, you are showered with love and affection.

The connection is so deep and intense, you start believing that you’ve met the “One.”

Related: 5 Weird Things Covert Narcissists Do To Manipulate Their Victims

Stage 2: Gaining your trust

Your partner would then do everything they can to gain your trust. They may suggest that you move in together and even get married.

These are usually false promises and once they gain your trust and you become attached to them, they will back out of commitment and slowly distance themselves.

Related: 21 Stages of a Narcissist Relationship (+FREE Breakup Recovery Worksheets)

Stage 3: Shift to criticism and devaluation

This stage starts slowly in general, so much so, you may not notice it or even mistakenly believe that this is a sign of people getting more comfortable together.

As they start criticizing you and belittling you, you may begin to believe that it’s all your fault and that you deserve such treatment.

Stage 4: Gaslighting

Gaslighting is a manipulation technique that can make you doubt your own experiences.

During this stage, your partner tries to gaslight you by twisting facts and denying your feelings and experiences.

Related: Am I Being Gaslighted Quiz (& How To Recover From Gaslighting In 10 Steps)

Stage 5: Resignation and submission

This is when you realize that having an open and logical discussion with your abusive partner is impossible.

If you attempt to reason things out, they’ll blame you and criticize you.

This leaves you mentally and emotionally exhausted and leads you to resign and submit.

Stage 6: Loss of sense of self

With your self-esteem decreasing, you find yourself neglecting your needs and desires and losing any self-awareness you had before.

You become focused on the abusive person and their needs and moods.

Related: Self-Abandonment: What Is It & How To Get Back In Touch With Yourself

Stage 7: Emotional Addiction

Trauma bond creates an emotional dependency that can feel very similar to drug addiction.

You find no pleasure in anything other than the abusive person. They become your reason of being.

Related: How To Stop Love Addiction? Top 5 Proven Steps to Overcome Love Addiction

FREE Toxic Relationship Worksheets

7 Stages Of Trauma Bonding

Trauma Bond Addiction: How Trauma Bonds Become Addictive?

The criteria for addiction are:

  • Compulsivity
  • Continuation of the behavior despite negative consequences
  • Obsession with the behavior

Addicts clearly know they need to stop but cannot. The addict needs the behavior in order to escape the pain.

Just as with addiction, those who are struggling with a trauma bond cannot leave the relationship despite negative consequences.

The chaos and living on the edge coupled with a degree of kindness are all so compelling.

Related: 9 Signs You Might Be Emotionally Addicted — and How to Overcome Love Addiction?

Emotional Abuse Recovery Worksheets

How To Recover From Trauma Bonding?

Recovering from trauma bonding can be a difficult and complex process, but there are steps you can take to start healing:

1. Acknowledge the problem: The first step is to recognize that you are in a trauma bond. This can be challenging because trauma bonding often involves feelings of attachment and loyalty towards the abuser.

2. Educate yourself: Learn more about trauma bonding and how it works. This will help you understand the dynamics of your situation and empower you to make positive changes.

3. Set boundaries: Setting boundaries is key to breaking free from a trauma bond. Be clear about your limits and communicate them assertively to the abuser.

4. Practice self-care: Self-care is crucial for healing from trauma bonding. Take time to engage in activities that make you happy and feel good about yourself. This could include exercise, meditation, spending time with friends, or pursuing a hobby.

5. Develop a support system: Isolation is a common feature of trauma bonding. Build a supportive network of people who care about you and believe in your journey towards healing.

6. Give yourself time: Healing from trauma bonding takes time and effort. Be patient and kind to yourself throughout the process.

Remember, recovery from trauma bonding is possible. With the right support and resources, you can break free from the cycle of abuse and move towards a healthier, happier life.


How Long Does A Trauma Bond Last?

The length of time a trauma bond lasts can vary depending on the individuals involved and the nature of the traumatic experiences.

In some cases, a trauma bond may last for years or even decades, particularly if the individuals involved remain in contact and continue to experience ongoing traumatic events together.

Can A Trauma Bond Become Healthy?

It is possible for a trauma bond to become healthy with appropriate support and intervention.

However, it often requires the help of a trained mental health professional who can assist with processing the traumatic experiences and developing healthy coping mechanisms.

The healing process may also involve setting and maintaining appropriate boundaries, communication skills, and developing self-esteem and self-worth.


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