7 Stages of Trauma Bonding

Breaking Free from Trauma Bonds with Effective Treatment Options

Imagine yourself trapped in a nightmare, one from which you cannot awaken. You’re caught in a cycle of fear, pain, and confusion. They’re punctuated by brief moments of relief and affection, keeping you hoping for a better tomorrow. But that tomorrow never comes. This is the reality for many individuals ensnared in the insidious web of trauma bonding.

Trauma bonding, a complex and harmful psychological phenomenon, can turn a relationship into a mental prison. Escape feels impossible. Growing in your understanding is the first key to liberation.

Icarus Behavioral Health understands that breaking through this negative relationship can be hard. But it starts with education.

So let’s shine a bright light on the intricate dynamics of trauma bonding. Let’s awaken from the nightmare once and for all.

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Gabriel’s Story: The 7 Stages of Trauma Bonding

Gabriel was entangled in a toxic relationship with his girlfriend. Marissa was a master manipulator, employing emotional abuse to control Gabriel. She would check his phone and make unfounded accusations.

Her happiness seemed contingent on manipulating Gabriel to bend to her will. This emotional addiction fostered trauma bonds. Marissa kept Gabriel tethered to her, despite the emotional turmoil she inflicted.

The stages of trauma bonding became glaringly plain in Gabriel’s relationship with Marissa. It commenced with love bombing. When that happened, Marissa inundated him with affection and attention. Once she felt secure in their relationship, the love bombing stopped.

Then she became controlling. She often engaged in abusive behavior. Attempts at open and logical discussion were met with hostility and further manipulation. The relationship left Gabriel emotionally exhausted and drained.

Recognizing the urgent need for professional support, Gabriel sought help. Concerned family members recommended Icarus Behavioral Health. There, he learned to identify the trauma bonds that kept him ensnared. This understanding marked the beginning of his healing journey. Gabriel eventually severed ties with Marissa and started the process of breaking the trauma bonds that were formed.

Today, he nurtures the hope of having a healthy relationship someday.

Yet, he acknowledges that it’s still too soon. He continues to heal from his trauma bonds and will look for love once he can focus on the other person’s feelings.

Trauma Bonding Definition

Trauma Bonding Definition

Trauma bonding is a psychological phenomenon. In it, the victim develops an emotional attachment to the abuser. This bond resembles Stockholm Syndrome, where hostages or kidnapping victims emotionally connect with their captors, and can also occur during the formation of injustice trauma, as well as with betrayal trauma.

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIH) recognizes trauma bonding as a significant factor in abuse. They note how it adds to victims’ difficulty when attempting to extricate themselves.

What Causes a Trauma Bond?

Trauma bonds come from a cyclical pattern of abuse, which has become known as the 7 stages of trauma bonding. It starts with periods of intense negative treatment. The following lead to periods of respite or even affection. This unpredictable pattern engenders a powerful emotional bond.

That’s when the victim becomes conditioned to seek the abuser’s approval and affection. They begin to overlook the harm they inflict.

You are in an unhealthy relationship with an unhealed person. The trauma bond relationship lets your partner feel in control. They may have had past traumatic experiences and been left feeling broken, including these causes of a trauma bond:

  • Past physical abuse
  • Past sexual abuse
  • A particularly stressful event
  • Alcohol or drug addiction without substance abuse treatment
  • A family that never showed them healthy relationships, emotionally addicted parents

The toxic relationship may be the only love they’ve known. It becomes like drug addiction, with their brain chemistry releasing feel-good chemicals every time they take control.

How This Emotional Addiction Leads to Abusive Relationships

Emotional addiction is a cornerstone of trauma bonding. The victim becomes addicted to the cycle of abuse and reconciliation. They start craving the moments of affection and approval that follow each episode. This addiction can lead to extreme emotional manipulation.

Over time, the victim becomes more focused on positive reinforcement after the abuse. The connection feels deep. The abused person seems to forget about the emotionally addicted behavior itself.

6 Signs You’re in a Trauma Bond Relationship

Experiencing Emotional Trauma

Knowing the signs suggest that poor treatment is psychological manipulation. Also, understand that these behaviors are not generally a part of healthy relationships.

1) You’re Experiencing Emotional Trauma

In a trauma-bonded relationship, the abused person often experiences emotional trauma. This can manifest as feelings of fear, anxiety, depression, or confusion. You may find yourself constantly walking on eggshells, fearing the next episode of abuse.

You may also experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), such as flashbacks, nightmares, or intrusive thoughts about the abuse.

The resulting trauma bonds can profoundly impact your mental and physical health. It can lead to sleep problems, difficulty concentrating, changes in appetite, and other physical symptoms.

Recognizing these signs and seeking help if you’re experiencing emotional addiction to an abuser is important. The National Domestic Violence Hotline, 1-800-799-SAFE, is there for those seeking help.

2) The Abusive Person Exhibits Narcissistic Behavior

Narcissistic abuse is a common feature of trauma-bonded relationships. The abusive partner may display traits of narcissism, such as a lack of empathy, a sense of entitlement, and a need for constant admiration. They may belittle, manipulate, and control you to maintain their power and control in the relationship.

In the 7 stages of trauma bonding, a narcissist trauma bond is a cycle of abuse and reconciliation to create such a bond. They may alternate between devaluing and idealizing you, keeping you in constant confusion and emotional turmoil.

This unpredictable behavior is a key part of the trauma bond, making it difficult for you to leave the relationship.

3) You Rationalize the Abusive Behavior

One of the signs of a trauma-bonded relationship is rationalizing the unhealthy relationship. You may make excuses for their actions, blame yourself for the abuse, or believe they will change. This is not a normal progression in a healthy relationship. Both partners feel appreciated, respected, and safe in a healthy relationship.

Rationalizing the abuse is a coping mechanism that can help you survive in an abusive environment. However, it can also keep you trapped in the cycle of abuse. Recognizing this pattern is important in breaking free from a trauma-bonded relationship.

4) Your Emotional Well-being is Tied to the Relationship

Your emotional well-being is tied to your abusive partner. You may feel a sense of relief or happiness when your partner shows you affection or approval, only to feel anxious, depressed, or worthless when they withdraw their affection or become abusive.

This emotional rollercoaster can take a toll on your mental health, leading to feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and low self-esteem.

It’s important to remember that your worth is not defined by the abusive person’s treatment of you. You deserve to be treated with kindness, respect, and love.

One of the core goals of trauma treatment programs at Icarus is to rekindle self-worth and allow you to embrace your own inherent worthiness.

5) You Lack the Life Skills to Leave the Relationship

Leave an abusive relationship

One of the challenges in leaving traumatic bonding is a lack of resources. The abusive person often isolates you from your support network and controls your life, making it difficult for you to leave the relationship. You may feel dependent on the abuser and fear you can’t survive without them.

However, it’s important to remember that you can learn the skills you need to leave the relationship and live independently.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline can provide you with the support and information you need to leave an abusive relationship.

6) You’re Unfamiliar with the 7 Stages of Trauma Bonding

If you’re unfamiliar with the seven stages of trauma bonding, you may not recognize the signs of a trauma-bonded relationship. Understanding these stages can help you make sense of your experiences and recognize the patterns of abuse.

The stages include love bombing, trust, and dependency, criticism and doubt, control and domination, tolerance of abuse, withdrawal and obsession, and trauma bonding.

Each stage plays a role in creating and maintaining the trauma bond. Recognizing these stages can help you understand the dynamics of your relationship and take steps to break free from the trauma bond. It’s a challenging journey. But you can break free from an unhealthy attachment and reclaim your life with the right support and resources.

If these signs seem familiar to you, or present in the life of someone you love, reach out now to get PTSD treatment options with Icarus. Support can help to provide lasting change and relief from trauma.

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What are the 7 Stages of Trauma Bonding?

Do you recognize any of these behaviors in your love relationship? Understand the 7 stages of trauma bonding. These steps present the normal progression of the trauma bond.

Stage 1: Love Bombing

In the love bombing stage, the abuser showers the victim with affection. This creates an intense, immediate connection. Grand gestures, constant communication, and declarations of love often characterize this stage.

The abuser may present themselves as the perfect partner. They may mirror the victim’s desires to create an illusion of a soulmate connection. This overwhelming attention and affection can be intoxicating. It makes the victim feel deeply valued and loved. However, this manipulative tactic may create romantic relationships that the abuser can later exploit.

These early stages progress to an increasingly tolerant psychological response to trauma brought on by the abuser later in the 7 stages of trauma bonding.

Stage 2: Trust and Dependency

Trust and Dependency

As the relationship progresses, the victim trusts the abuser and becomes emotionally dependent on them. The abuser may present themselves as the victim’s sole source of comfort, understanding, and support. That fosters a sense of dependency.

They may encourage the victim to share their deepest fears and insecurities. Later, they will use these vulnerabilities against them in later stages. The abuser may also start isolating the victim from their support system. That will further increase the victim’s dependency on the relationship.

Stage 3: Criticism and Doubt

In the criticism and doubt stage, the abuser subtly criticizes the victim. As a result, they create self-doubt and erode their self-esteem. This stage brings constant belittling, undermining, and gaslighting. These make the victim question their worth, judgment, and abilities.

The abuser may blame the victim for their abusive behavior. As a result, the victim may believe they are the cause of the problems in the relationship. This manipulation can leave the victim feeling confused and insecure. They are also desperate to regain the abuser’s approval.

Stage 4: Control and Domination

In the control and domination stage, the abuser asserts control over the victim’s life, isolating them from friends and family. They also start dominating their time and attention. This stage often involves manipulation, threats, and coercion to maintain control. In the case of narcissistic trauma bonding, the person will shift blame, never admitting fault.

The abuser may track the victim’s activities, including their finances. They also might dictate their appearance and behavior. They may also use guilt, fear, or obligation to manipulate the victim into compliance, further reinforcing the trauma bond.

Stage 5: Tolerance of Abuse

In the tolerance stage, the victim tolerates the abuse, believing it’s a regular part of their relationship. They may rationalize or dismiss the abuser’s actions, attributing them to stress, jealousy, or love. They never resolve conflict or heal during this repeated cycle.

The victim may also blame themselves for the abuse, believing they can change the abuser’s behavior by being more understanding, patient, or loving. This denial and self-blame further deepen the trauma bond and make it more difficult for the victim to recognize the abuse and seek help.

Stage 6: Withdrawal and Obsession

In the withdrawal and obsession stage, the victim experiences withdrawal symptoms when separated from the abuser. They might also grow obsessed with winning back their approval. This stage includes intense longing, anxiety, and preoccupation with the abuser.

The victim may go to great lengths to please the abuser, sacrificing their needs and well-being. They may also idealize the abuser and the relationship, focusing on the good times and ignoring the abuse.

Stage 7: Trauma Bond Stage

In the final stage of trauma bonding, the victim fully bonds to the abuser. They find it difficult to leave the relationship despite the harm it’s causing. They may feel a sense of loyalty or attachment to the abuser. That occurs even in the face of severe emotional or physical abuse.

The victim may fear the abuser’s reaction to leaving. Or they may fear being alone, believing they cannot survive without the abuser. This intense, irrational bond can keep the victim trapped in the abusive relationship, even when they recognize the harm it’s causing them.

The Psychological Abuse Is Not Your Fault

sychological Abuse

It’s crucial to remember that psychological abuse is not your fault. You are not to blame for their harmful behavior. No one has the right to mistreat or control you. You do deserve love, respect, kindness, and dignity.

It’s common for abusers to shift the blame onto their victims. It leads them to believe they cause the love bombing and abuse pattern. It is a manipulative tactic to maintain control and prevent the victim from seeking help.

Trauma bonding can cloud your perception of the situation. It makes it difficult to recognize the abuse and its impact on your well-being. You may find yourself making excuses for the abuser or blaming yourself for the abuse.

Moving Past Cycles of Trauma Successfully

You might struggle to reconcile the abuser’s harmful behavior with the affection they sometimes show. This confusion and self-doubt are part of the trauma bond. Instead, their control can keep you trapped in an abusive relationship.

But, with the proper support and guidance, you can break free from the painful cycle of abuse. Freedom from an abusive partner involves recognizing the abuse and understanding the dynamics of trauma bonding. But it also means seeking professional help.

It is certainly a challenging journey. But it’s important to remember that you are not alone and help is available. You have the strength and resilience to overcome this.

Remember – you deserve a life free from abuse.

How Icarus Behavioral Health Can Help Break the Trauma Bond

Icarus Behavioral Health offers a range of trauma-informed care options. We help you break free of an unhealthy relationship.

Why is it crucial to get professional assistance to break those trauma bonds?

Because while you are trapped in the nightmare of emotional abuse, you do not have an objective perspective. Counseling is extremely helpful. It guides you out of the seven stages of trauma bonds and awakens you to the harmful nature of your relationship.

You will learn to break trauma bonds under the guidance of our team of mental health professionals:

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing

EMDR is a form of psychotherapy that aids individuals in healing from the symptoms and emotional distress resulting from traumatic life experiences.

It’s particularly effective in treating trauma-related disorders like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). EMDR therapy involves recalling traumatic memories while receiving bilateral sensory input. Inputs include side-to-side eye movements.

This process helps individuals process and integrate traumatic memories. It reduces their impact and helps them develop realistic beliefs about themselves and the world.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

DBT is a cognitive-behavioral treatment approach emphasizing the development of four skill sets:

  • Mindfulness
  • Distress tolerance
  • Emotion regulation
  • Interpersonal effectiveness.

These skills equip individuals with the tools to manage their emotions, tolerate distress, and improve their relationships.

DBT in residential treatment settings is particularly effective for individuals who struggle with self-destructive behaviors. These may include self-harm or substance abuse. It can also be a powerful tool in breaking the cycle of trauma bonding.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT is a form of psychotherapy that treats problems and increases one’s happiness. It works by modifying dysfunctional emotions, behaviors, and thoughts.

It’s based on the interconnection of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. It presumes that changing our thoughts can change our feelings and behaviors. CBT treats many disorders, including depression, anxiety, CPTSD, and PTSD. It can also help individuals recognize and change the thought patterns contributing to trauma bonding.

Individual and Group Therapy to Overcome Trauma

Both individual and group therapy sessions provide a safe space to explore your feelings, experiences, and relationships. People also learn new strategies to cope with life’s challenges.

In individual therapy, you work one-on-one with a professional therapist. You learn to understand and address your unique experiences and needs.

Group therapy allows connecting with others with similar experiences, providing mutual support and shared learning. Both forms of therapy can provide invaluable support and insight, helping you understand and overcome the effects of trauma bonding.

Family Therapy

Family Therapy

Family therapy is another crucial component in breaking a trauma bond. The cycle of abuse doesn’t only affect the victim. It also extends its damaging effects on children, siblings, and parents. Family members may feel powerless, betrayed, or deeply worried, and they may struggle to understand the dynamics of the abusive relationship.

An effective rehab family program provides a safe space for family members to express their feelings, learn about the trauma bond cycle, and understand how to support their loved ones effectively.

This therapeutic approach recognizes that healing is a collective journey, and the family’s involvement can be a powerful force in breaking the cycle of abuse.

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Are You Ready to Start a Trauma Healing Journey?

Recovery from emotional or domestic abuse begins with recognizing the trauma bond and seeking help.

Don’t let feeling overwhelmed about where to start holding you back. The Icarus Behavioral Health insurance coordinators simplify the process by handling the paperwork. Connect with us online, and share your contact and insurance information. Our professional team will go to work for you immediately.

We invite you to connect with us and reclaim your happiness. Let’s awaken you from the nightmare. You deserve a life free from abuse, and we’re here to support you every step of the way.

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