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.
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 Partner Worksheets
8 Signs of Trauma Bond
The following are signs that you or someone you know might be in a trauma bond:
- When you attempt to leave the relationship, you feel as if you physically can’t cope with being away from them.
- When you don’t do as your partner says, you’re given silent treatment as a punishment.
- You continue to trust in your partner even though they are perpetually unreliable.
- You do everything you can to please your partner, but you’re not getting the same treatment in return.
- You feel stuck in the relationship and can’t see any way out, or never considered leaving the relationship, despite unhealthy patterns.
- You find yourself always making excuses for their unhealthy behavior.
- You have constant arguments with your partner that never get resolved.
- Your partner is always promising you things but never delivers.
Trauma Bond Addiction: How Trauma Bonds Become Addictive?
The criteria for addiction are:
- 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?
- Traumatic bonding – Wikipedia
- What Is Trauma Bonding? (verywellmind.com)
- Trauma Bonding: What It Is & How to Heal – Choosing Therapy
- Trauma bonding: Definition, examples, signs, and recovery (medicalnewstoday.com)
- What Is Trauma Bonding? Signs To Look Out For | Well+Good (wellandgood.com)
- Understanding the Impact of Trauma Bonds in Our Lives | Psychology Today
- Emotional attachments in abusive relationships: a test of traumatic bonding theory – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Trauma Bonding: What It Is and How to Cope (healthline.com)