Is it Love or a Trauma Bond? Six Ways to Tell…

We can give ourselves allergies. We can give ourselves addictions, diseases, deficiencies, and neuroses.

We can definitely give ourselves trauma bonds.

Although, in this case, it certainly takes more than one party to build the bridge that creates the cyclical, helpless, hopeless frenetic energy of a trauma bond.

The trick with trauma bonding is that your nervous system knows it’s in a heightened state… poised for danger… alert and ready to run…

But do you know what else feels like that?

Being in love.

At least, according to your nervous system – it can’t decipher between being afraid and being excited. That differentiation comes from context in the brain, through analysis of events and memories and logical reduction. 

Because trauma is something we’re all already confused about – people tend to know very little about it or to have huge misconceptions – most of us are fundamentally under informed and underprepared to recognize when we’re trauma-bonding with a partner.

Trauma Bonding: The body’s response to the cycle of abuse – physically, psychologically, and physiologically.

Essentially, when a person is routinely manipulated and trespassed upon develops feelings of sympathy for the abuser, followed by regret and self-blame, usually resulting in a deeper connection and reinforced insistence on staying with the abuser…

That’s trauma bonding.

The general consensus is that it’s a result of an unhealthy attachment, fostered by the person perpetrating the abuse.

It can be hard to tell if you’ve trauma bonded, since as we’ve discussed, psychological conditioning and the physical body can make you think you’re experiencing love instead.

Here are six signs you might be trauma bonded…

Agreeing with the Abuse

Often, an abuser will couch their behavior as the only possible reaction to the grief the abused gives them.

Meaning, it’s your fault that they behaved so badly – you asked for it when you… did something they didn’t like, irritated them, triggered them, etc. 

One sign that you may be trauma bonded is when you start to agree that if you had only acted differently, you wouldn’t have earned the abuse that followed. 

Defending the Abuser

In this example, you may not believe that you deserved whatever came to you, but you believe that there are extenuating circumstances that should allow the abuser to have some leniency, some grace.

If your impulse is to allow an abuser’s mental state, external factors , level of stress, or anything else to excuse mistreatment of your person, it’s likely that you’re trauma bonding.

Distancing from Other Relationships

Oftentimes, our friends and family can see our situations with more clarity than we can while we’re got no space from them.

Trauma-bonded individuals tend to create distance between themselves and their family and friends, especially the ones that are trying to get you to see what’s happening. 

Because of how difficult it is to leave someone you’re trauma-bonded too, hearing that you should leave them when you have no intention of doing so can be very painful. 

Feeling Withdrawal Symptoms When You Break Away

Trying to leave can be a good indication of how trauma bonded you are. Do you feel intense regret? Remorse? Are you rewriting the narrative and doubting yourself afterwards? 

Is your grief seemingly inconsolable? That’s because your usual coping mechanism – the comforting and reliable cycle of abuse – isn’t there anymore. 

Filtering Your Choices Through What Will Upset Them

The longer you trauma bond with someone, the more you get a feel for what’s going to start the cycle over again.

You start to learn which actions to avoid and can predict your abuser’s responses. 

If your protocol for expression becomes rooted in what’s acceptable to your abuser, you can bet there’s been some trauma bonding happening.

Replaying a Role You’re Familiar With

Abused people continue the work of their abusers. Whether that means negative self-talk, self-harm, self-destructive behaviors, or finding another abuser, it’s a phenomenon in human psychology.

Trauma alters the structure of the brain, and it stays that way unless it’s healed. If you’ve experienced abuse or trauma-bonding before, the role of placater, defender, and long-suffering forgiver is probably familiar to you. 

If you start to feel like you’ve seen this movie before… you really might have. 

One of the easiest markers for measuring trauma bonding is how great or small is your outrage – usually, if you’ve got unhealed trauma that’s left you with low self-esteem and self-confidence, you aren’t as inflamed about bad treatment as would someone who has healed their trauma.

Nick Polizzi and I made a point to dig deeply into that area of trauma…

The compounding effect that it has, and how much more vulnerable and susceptible are the people whose trauma still lives unreleased in their bodies and cells and memories, controlling them and their perception of what’s possible.

Tomorrow night, we air the very first episode of our docu-series, “Trauma,” on

It’s completely free to watch – all you have to do is click here.

Don’t let yourself be swept into a cycle – break it, now. 

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Dr. Pedram Shojai

NY Times Best Selling author and film maker. Taoist Abbot and Qigong master. Husband and dad. I’m here to help you find your way and be healthy and happy. I don’t want to be your guru…just someone who’ll help point the way. If you’re looking for a real person who’s done the work, I’m your guy. I can light the path and walk along it with you but can’t walk for you.