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Trauma Bonds: What Are They?

Ending an abusive relationship often is not simple. There are many factors that

make it difficult, or even dangerous for people to leave abusive situations. Concerns of

personal safety, financial stability, safety of children involved, and housing are all very

common reasons why people might choose not to leave their abusers.

However, sometimes people develop a strong attachment to their abusers,

despite how they treat them. They might feel deeply connected to their abuser and find

it impossible to be without them. This is called a trauma bond.

A trauma bond is an emotional attachment formed between a victim and their

abuser. This bond develops through a recurring cycle of abuse, reward, and

punishment. The abuser will inflict harm on their partner either emotionally, verbally, or

physically, which is usually followed by a period of kindness and affection, only to be

ultimately met with abuse again.

This cycle of positive reinforcement and abuse can prompt victims to feel stuck in

relationships, as their partner/abuser may still display good qualities as they alternate

between abuse and kindness. It can be easy to overlook negative qualities in someone

when they still have good moments. Often times, victims hold onto the good moments

and let them outshine the bad. This is where trauma bonds occur.

Trauma bonds do not only apply to romantic relationships. They can also refer to

family dynamics between children and abusive caregivers, siblings, friends, and even


What are the common signs of a trauma bond?

  • Cyclical pattern of alternating between abuse and kindness or using rewards and punishment as reinforcement. Ex: your boyfriend projects his work stress onto you by screaming at you after a long shift and throwing plates on the floor. He then buys you flowers and apologizes, blaming it on his job. A week later, the same thing happens.

  • Control and manipulation tactics being used by the abuser such as intimidation, isolation, threats, emotional abuse, etc. Ex: your partner refuses to let you hang out with your friends or family. They call you words like “selfish” and “self-absorbed”, accusing you of not caring about them.

  • A power imbalance: A dynamic in which one person has emotional or physical control over the other. Ex: your girlfriend has full control over your shared bank account and won’t let you make financial decisions by yourself. She controls how much and what you spend your money on.

We hope this info helps you better comprehend your trauma and provides knowledge on how to manage your trauma. Get in touch today if you need individual counseling or trauma training in Winter Park. We are here to help you live a constantly healthy lifestyle.

(This article was contributed by UCF Clinical Psychology student, Mileydy Morales)

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