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To the average person, the signs of an abusive or toxic relationship are pretty obvious. From the constant break up to make ups, arguing, blocking/unblocking, ignoring each other, love bombing, obsessive behavior and over protectiveness; the list of toxic tendencies within a abusive/toxic relationship goes on and on and on. Many may wonder why people choose to stay in a relationship that seems to have more bad times than good; and as complex as you may think the answer to that question really is, it's actually quite simple, it's called trauma bonding.

Trauma bonding is the attachment an abused person feels for their abuser. This bond is created due to a repetitive cycle of positive reinforcement and abuse. After each circumstance of abuse, the abuser will then profess their love and regret for things escalating, the victim will eventually give in, and thus the cycle continues. Trauma bonding goes deeper than you may think because it actually involves the neurochemistry of your brain. The person on the inside of the toxic relationship isn't purposely trying to be naive or ignorant to the obvious red flags, they psychologically can't help it. Trauma bonding makes you psychologically addicted to your abuser. Which is why trying to stop contact with them feels like you are coming off of a drug.

Most victims of trauma bonding are codependent and the abusers are typically narcissist. Narcissistic abuse changes your brain hence the form of the trauma bond. Trauma bonding then causes the victims to physiologically change. As their brain starts to release neuropeptides, this creates the bond that the abused have to their abuser. When oxycotin (bonding), endogenous opiods (pleasure, pain, withdrawal, dependence), corticotropin-releasing factor (withdrawal, stress), and dopamine (craving, seeking, wanting) are all involved and awakened from the high highs and the low lows of the relationships. This rollercoaster of emotions strengthens the bond of the relationship in the brain rather than weakening it. With such strong neurochemistry involved in various stages of the brain, it is extremely difficult for the abused to manage their emotions or make logical decisions.

Within the trauma bond, the narcissist's partner—who often has codependency issues will first feel loved and cared for. However, this will eventually begin to dissolve over time, and then the emotional, mental, and sometimes physical abuse takes over the relationship. The codependent will see that things are changing within the relationship but won’t understand why. They naively believe that they are the problem & if they change, that will bring back the loving part of the relationship, that they once saw in the beginning. What they don't understand is that the more the codependent reaches out to the narcissist for love, recognition, and approval, the stronger the trauma bond gets. This eventually makes the codependent stay in the relationship as the abuse escalates, creating a destructive cycle.

Below are some signs that you might be in a trauma bond relationship:

- The relationship has really high highs and low lows

- You constantly worry about doing something that would upset them.

- You go out of your way to protect them.

- You ignore their bad actions when pointed out to you by others.

- You know they are deceptive and abusive, yet can’t seem to let them go.

- You do everything to please them and are always loyal, even when they give you nothing but pain.

- You hide your emotions from them.

- You feel addicted to them.

- You always make an excuse for them.

- You compromise your wants and needs to please them.

- You forget your worth and value.

- You crave the little crumbs of love and attention that they give you.

If you mostly answered yes to any of these, you might be or have been in a trauma bond relationship. I myself have unfortunately been in multiple trauma bonding relationships in my past, so I can speak from experience on how addictive and hard it is, to let your mentally and emotionally abusive partner go. But if you ever need an ear to vent to or just need advice on the first steps to leave this type of bonding relationship. Book a session with me and we will develop an effective plan to get you out and back mentally healthy, self aware and strong.

sending you tons of love & light ❤️

- Maya Benberry

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