11 Feb 2021

Trauma bonding : How your brain fools you into thinking that you are in love.

The term “trauma bond,” was first coined by Dr. Patrick Carnes, who developed this term to describe how the “misuse of fear, excitement, and sexual feelings,” can be used to trap or entangle another person. Patrick Carnes (born 1944) is an American proponent of the viewpoint that some sexual behavior is an addiction. Dutton and Painter 1981, applied this term to describe the trauma bonds in romantic and parent-child relationships.

In simple words, it’s a bond formed between two people in which one dominates and abuses the other, like a parent-child relationship or an intimate romantic relationship. The dominant person, a partner, or a parent is abusive towards the other partner and a parent is abusive towards the child most of the time with a brief period of affection intermittently in which they are concerned or express kindness. The abused person is also kept socially isolated from the rest of the society in order to keep them attached as the absence of any opinion on the relationship from the outside can throw light on the reality of the dynamics. 

The abused person, isolated from society, lives a life of a captive and desperately needs love, care, and affection from the one and only source which is the abuser. After long periods of intense abuse the dominant partner shows brief periods of love and affection, called love bombing in psychology. This created confusion about the perception of the abuser in the mind of the abused. 

On the biological level also this confusion is reinforced by the release of hormones. Adrenaline and cortisol are released when there is abuse. These hormones are released in stressful situations to prepare a person for fight or flight. But since the captivated person can neither fight back nor run, so in order to survive they only focus on the bright side of the relationship by remembering the good time or the love-bombing phases of the past thus re-inforcing the bonds. Feel-good hormones like oxytocin and others are released in the blood when we are loved and are intimate with someone. The hormone dopamine is released when we feel relaxed and calm, which is right after an abusive episode is over and the victim feels safe and loved all of sudden. Dopamine makes one addicted to this feeling which the victim knows that can be achieved again by pleasing and obeying the abuser. Therefore, focussing on a negligible amount of affection from the abuser and walking on eggshells hoping to get it again is what keeps a person 

strongly attached t the abuser.

Signs you are trauma bonded to your partner or parents:-

  1. You fear loneliness more than you fear your abuser.

  2. You feel distressed at the thought of leaving them.

  3. You can’t stand to see them love someone else, no matter how much they abuse you(romantic relationships).

  4. You fear you can’t live without them.

  5. Your life is completely controlled by them.

  6. You wouldn’t suggest your friend to stay in such a relationship.

  7. You doubt your perception of them as being an abuser when they are showing bits of kindness and feel guilty.

  8. You feel, finally they have changed during every brief period of kindness they show.

  9. They make you feel week by showing kindness and forcing you to stay and make a promise to change when you gather the courage to leave.

  10. There is an ongoing cycle of abuse and love happening alternately.

  11. You feel your life revolving around them.

  12. Sometimes you hate them, but don’t know why you still want to be with them.

  13. You go to great lengths to please them and make them feel special so that they will return the affection and reduce the abuse.

Even after completely getting educated on how the body and brain are fooling the victims they are unable to leave such relationships because of the addiction to affection( and sexual relationship in case of romantic relationships).

For the sake of your emotional health and well-being of the rest of the family, it is advised to seek professional help from a family and marriage therapist who can help with diagnosis and provide guided help for a better life for your family.

The contents of this blog are for informational purposes only and, are not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Please seek the advice of a qualified mental health professional with any questions you have regarding a medical health condition.

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