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Are You Experiencing a Trauma Bond? Important Signs to Watch For

A couple is walking and holding hands. One has light skin and one hs darker skin.

A trauma bond is a bond that develops between you and someone who has abused you. This often occurs in toxic relationships. 

A commonly understood example is Stockholm Syndrome, where hostages develop a connection to their captors. Trauma bonds can occur in families, between friends, or within a romantic relationship. 

When a trauma bond occurs, it’s possible that you aren’t even aware of its existence. Here are some signs to watch for. 

You Overlook Red Flags

Every relationship will have its up-and-down moments. Healthy arguments are a real thing that allow you to grow with a partner. What your relationship shouldn’t have is a bunch of red flags. 

Red flags in a relationship can include aggressive behaviors, physical abuse, keeping secrets, substance abuse, and disregarding boundaries. When you’re experiencing these types of behaviors, the healthy thing is to address them. If you’re choosing to ignore them, it’s indicative of trauma bonding. 

Denial of red flags can be that you’re minimizing the behavior or avoiding such topics when you’re around friends and family. Although you try to deny them, it’s very common for your loved ones to notice that they’re occurring. 

You’re Defending Behavior

Another sign of a trauma bond is condoning or defending bad behaviors. When you’re experiencing harmful actions, you may feel like it’s easiest to write it off or quickly reconcile a bad situation. 

In doing so, you start to make excuses for them and find a way to rationalize the behavior. Maybe they’re tired or stressed. You find a way to hold on to the good parts of the relationship rather than acknowledge a larger problem. 

They Occupy Your Thoughts

After experiencing a traumatic event with another person, whether a romantic relationship, friend, or family member, if your thoughts are consumed by this person, it could be a trauma bond. 

When you’re not around them, you think about them. If they have left the picture, you fantasize about being with them, no matter the details of the situation. The “good” idea you have in your head outweighs the glaring issue at hand. 

You Want to Offer Help

Similar to thinking about them, if you find yourself trying to help them after they have done actions to harm you, it’s another sign of trauma bonding. No matter how bad it gets, you still want to do good by them.

This can look like helping to pay bills, running their errands, attending to responsibilities, or providing them with needed goods. 

You Have an Unwillingness to Leave

When you’ve spent time in a traumatic or abusive relationship, the way you make it through is to start normalizing their behavior. The longer it goes on, the more natural your response becomes. 

Due to what you’ve endured, you may find it less likely that you’ll leave the relationship. The abuse could increase and you’ll still have an unwillingness to leave. 

There’s a number of different reasons for this resistance. Maybe you or your family feel threatened if you were to leave. Maybe you’ve experienced a lot of deep emotions that have complicated your thought processes. You may have become so isolated from your friends and family that you don’t feel like you have the support to do so. 

You Feel Guilt, Shame, or Fear

Toxic relationships thrive on using guilt and fear. When you try to voice your opinion or express your needs, you’re made to feel like you don’t deserve to be heard. If you try to set any boundaries, you’re quickly overridden. Attempting to participate in a social activity you enjoy results in you being guilted. 

The more you try to have some independence, the more you’re brought down. And after all that, you’re still in the relationship.

If you have a trauma bond, there is help available to find healing. Contact us to discuss your experience and see how we can help you. 


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