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How to Break a Trauma Bond: 8 Strategies for Healing
Mental Health

How to Break a Trauma Bond: 8 Strategies for Healing

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Written by Edibel Quintero, RD | Medically reviewed by Medically reviewed by Rosmy Barrios, MD check
Published on January 3, 2023
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8 min

Trauma bonds usually occur in romantic relationships and can be difficult to break. In this article, we’ve looked at all the ways you can break a trauma bond to protect your mental health. Take a look now to learn more.

How to break a trauma bond
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A trauma bond forms between a victim of prolonged abuse and the abuser. It can be an incredibly difficult bond to break, but for your own mental health, it may be necessary. There are many ways that a trauma-bonded relationship can end, and we’re going to look at some of them in this article.

We’re also going to look more in-depth at how trauma bonds form and how they differ from healthy relationships. Take a look below to learn more now.

8 Ways to Break a Trauma Bond, According to a Psychologist

Trauma bonds occur in abusive relationships and form between an abused person and their abuser. We’ve taken a look at some of the many ways you can end a trauma bond to help you take the necessary steps to protect yourself and your well-being.

#1 Give yourself space

The first thing you need to do to break free of a trauma bond is to recognize it for what it is. Giving yourself the space to see that you are in an abusive relationship can help you gain clarity on the reality of the situation.

Giving yourself space from toxic relationships will help you see what is going on and why you keep returning. Distance doesn’t always make the heart grow fonder; in fact, it usually encourages you to look more closely within to see how the trauma-bonded relationship you’re in is affecting you.

Giving yourself space could look like moving out for a time, spending time with relatives and others in your support network, or simply cutting off communication.

#2 Learn how to love yourself

Learning to love yourself and growing your self-confidence can help break trauma bonds. It allows you to be much less dependent on your abuser and will give you the confidence to cut ties completely.

There are many ways you can learn self-love, including trying a mental health app. Sensa is a fantastic app for mental well-being which harnesses the incredible power of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to help users change how they think.

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  • Lessons based on the CBT method
  • Mood journal
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The app creates an individualized plan for every single user, meaning it is catered to how you feel and any conditions you have and is based on the answers you give to the opening questionnaire. It has daily exercises, introducing users to mindfulness practices like breathwork and meditation.

Sensa also offers users a place to journal and track their daily mood, helping them see triggers and develop coping mechanisms. There is a quick-relief section too, which can be used when users feel overwhelmed or panicked.

You can use Sensa to build up self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-love through self-care practices that boost your psychological well-being.

#3 Don’t be harsh on yourself

It’s easy to criticize and blame yourself for falling into an abusive relationship and being reliant on your bond, but you shouldn’t. Don’t be harsh on yourself or overly self-critical about things that are out of your control.

A trauma-bond relationship can happen to anyone, and it is important to understand this. If you feel you will be judged, you may find it more difficult to leave a toxic person, but the right support system will help you get through it.

#4 Focus on the present

It is easy in abusive relationships to focus on the good times and not acknowledge the here and now. Most trauma bonds will have had periods of good and periods of bad, but the bad often outweighs the good. This is why it is important to focus on the present when removing yourself from a toxic relationship.

You need to remind yourself that the good times you have had don’t negate the abusive behavior you have suffered. Don’t allow yourself to be drawn back in by nostalgia.

#5 Let yourself heal

Giving yourself the time and space to heal after being in toxic and abusive relationships is an act of self-love. You need to allow yourself to recover from emotional abuse so that you can figure out what you really want and need.

After being in a relationship that relied on this kind of bond, you may need to heal enough to be independent and enter into healthier relationships in the future.

#6 Create meaningful and healthy relationships

After a relationship that involved trauma bonding, you must take the time to build meaningful and healthy relationships. This may involve some introspection and time spent learning about yourself and fully healing.

You can start to build a healthy relationship in time with others who make you feel safe, both emotionally and physically. Using healthy communication methods, you can begin to develop your ability to form these relationships.

#7 Face your feelings

You’re going to have a lot of feelings after you break your bond, and it is important that you face them head-on. You may feel like returning to your abuser in these moments, but you must learn to self-soothe to become independent.

Codependency is a hallmark of trauma bonds, so facing your feelings by yourself and learning how to soothe yourself without relying on someone else is an important step in breaking trauma bonds.

#8 Try therapy

There is absolutely no shame in seeking therapy while trying to end trauma bonding. Your mental health matters, and after being trauma bonded with a person, a licensed therapist is one of the best people to help you overcome the emotions and grief attached to the end of it.

A therapist would be able to offer you ways to cope and ways to move forward and could help you develop healthier attachments in the future. Look for therapists who specialize in relationships to help you overcome this negative experience.

You could also try improving your mental health in other ways, like using a mental health app, practicing mindfulness, and getting more exercise, like a daily walk.

What’s a Trauma Bond?

Trauma bonding occurs between an abused person and their abuser. It is the result of prolonged abuse and results in codependency between the two people. It is commonly found in emotionally and physically abusive relationships.

A trauma-based bond isn’t just an abusive relationship, it is a bond that is caused by a repeated cycle of abuse, devaluation, and then positive reinforcement. Being trauma bonded with an abusive partner can result from a power imbalance and is often defined by its cyclical nature.

The abusive person may act out only to apologize and ask for forgiveness, which can cause an emotional attachment to develop, resulting in an unhealthy relationship that is built on trauma bonding.

Love vs. Trauma Bonding

Love and trauma bonding is not the same thing. Trauma-bonded relationships, like those built on love bombing, mimic the action of love. A toxic trauma bond is a psychological response to fear and is not built on love.

It can be difficult to tell the difference between the two sometimes. This is because trauma bonding can feel like love. As in romantic relationships, trauma bonding involves lots of the same emotions, but the primary motivation behind it is different.

Why Does Trauma Bonding Occur?

Trauma bonding occurs in relationships where there is a cycle of abuse. In most abusive relationships, there is a period of positive affirmation after abuse, which can lead to a trauma bond. When your body goes into fight or flight, it looks for anything to help it survive. The positive feelings that come after a period of emotional or physical abuse cause the brain to form an emotional attachment to the abuser.

This type of codependent relationship is developed by the glimmer of hope that positive reinforcement causes. This glimmer of hope makes the abused person feel that their abusive partner symbolizes safety and survival.

Can a Trauma Bond Be Fixed?

The best way to fix it is to break free and begin the healing process. As it is not simply a relationship that has gone wrong and is instead a psychological response to fear, this kind of bond may be more difficult to fix.

Breaking free of a trauma-bonded relationship could involve setting healthy boundaries and seeking therapy to heal after so much pain. The traumatic bonds caused by an abusive situation can be difficult to fix, but with professional support, it can be done.

Can a Trauma Bond Become Healthy?

A couple is rarely able to transform trauma bonds into something healthier. Due to the psychological root of the bond, which is rooted in fear, it cannot usually become healthy, nor should it, in most cases.

These kinds of bonds form between an abused person and their abusive romantic partner. It is an unhealthy bond that develops out of abusive behavior patterns, and even the positive qualities are part of this cycle. For this reason, breaking the bond is the best thing for your own safety.

FAQs

How long does it take to break a trauma bond?

The journey from breaking a traumatic bond to being fully healed is completely personal. It can take anywhere from a few months to a few years to fully heal from all the pain of this kind of relationship.

What does trauma bonding feel like?

It manifests as an unhealthy attachment to the abuser and a need to defend them. It can feel very much like love but is often cyclical in nature. You may be able to identify it by a cyclical and toxic pattern.

Why is a trauma bond so strong?

Trauma bonds are born out of your fight-or-flight instinct and are based on fear. For this reason, a bond like this is so strong, as it is seen as a method of survival by the brain. As humans, our instinct is to survive, and so a bond like this is incredibly strong and difficult to break.

A Word From a Psychologist

A relationship that is built on trauma bonding is not a healthy relationship and is different from other relationship troubles. It is a bond that is formed based on fear and results in dysfunctional attachments. It is often characterized by cyclical patterns of abuse and then positive reinforcements. This trains the brain to believe they must remain in the relationship for survival.

This kind of relationship forms between an abused person and their abuser. It often happens in relationships with power imbalances and may mimic a loving relationship. Leaving a dysfunctional relationship can be difficult, but it is best for your mental health to leave.

Breaking trauma bonds can be difficult, and it will take a lot of work. You may also want to join a support group or seek out a therapist. These treatment plans can both help you to heal, build healthier relationships in the future, and improve your self-confidence. It can be scary to leave a relationship, but it can be done with inner work and outside help.

Conclusion

Ending a relationship based on trauma bonding can be difficult, and it will take time. You need to learn to forgive yourself, build your self-esteem, and learn how to build healthy relationships. Generally, leaving a trauma-bonded situation is the best option for all parties, as the bond is unlikely to become healthy.

Sensa Health
Your calm mind assistant
  • Lessons based on the CBT method
  • Mood journal
  • Challenges & self-improvement activities
  • Quick relief function
  • Assessments to help you grow
Our rating:
4.5
Start Free Quiz Now
HR_author_photo_Edibel
Written by
Edibel Quintero is a medical doctor who graduated in 2013 from the University of Zulia and has been working in her profession since then. She specializes in obesity and nutrition, physical rehabilitation, sports massage and post-operative rehabilitation. Edibel’s goal is to help people live healthier lives by educating them about food, exercise, mental wellness and other lifestyle choices that can improve their quality of life.
Medically reviewed by Rosmy Barrios, MD
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