Trauma bonding is a psychological phenomenon that occurs when a person forms an intense emotional connection with someone abusive or harmful toward them.

This bond often develops due to the victim’s need for love and validation from their abuser, despite the ongoing mistreatment. It is also known as Stockholm Syndrome, where hostages develop positive feelings towards their captors.

Today, let’s explore the most common signs of trauma bonding, which can help individuals recognize whether they or someone they know may be experiencing this phenomenon.

1. Intense Emotional Connection with the Abuser

The foundation of a trauma bond is a strong emotional connection between the victim and their abuser. Even though the abuser may cause significant physical, emotional, or psychological harm, the victim often feels inexplicably attached to them. This attachment can manifest as a strong desire to please the abuser, protect them, or even defend them to others.

2. Confusion About Feelings

Victims of trauma bonding often feel confused about their emotions towards their abuser. They may simultaneously feel love, loyalty, fear, anger, and resentment. This internal conflict can make it challenging for the victim to recognize that they are in an unhealthy relationship, let alone find the strength to leave it.

3. Minimizing the Abuse

One of the key signs of trauma bonding is when the victim minimizes the severity or impact of the abuse they are experiencing. 

They may downplay the abuse as “not that bad” or make excuses for the abuser’s behaviour. This minimization often serves as a coping mechanism to help the victim rationalize their attachment to the abuser and maintain the illusion of a loving relationship.

4. Isolation From Friends and Family

Trauma bonding often results in the victim becoming increasingly isolated from friends and family. The abuser may actively encourage this isolation by creating tension or conflict between the victim and their loved ones or convincing the victim that they are the only person they can trust. 

This isolation strengthens the trauma bond and makes it even harder for the victim to seek help or escape the relationship.

5. Unhealthy Attachment Despite the Abuse

A hallmark of trauma bonding is that the victim remains attached to their abuser despite the ongoing mistreatment. They may feel a sense of safety and comfort in the relationship, even when they know it is causing them harm. 

This unhealthy attachment can make it incredibly difficult for the victim to leave the relationship, as they may feel they are giving up on their only source of love and support.

6. Repeated Attempts to Leave the Relationship

Victims of trauma bonding often make multiple attempts to leave their abuser, only to return to the relationship. 

This cycle of leaving and returning can be incredibly frustrating for the victim and their loved ones trying to support them. 

Each attempt to leave can cause the trauma bond to strengthen, making it even more challenging for the victim to break free from the relationship.

7. Self-Blame and Guilt

People experiencing trauma bonding often blame themselves for the abuse they are enduring. They may believe they deserve the mistreatment or must have done something to provoke it. 

This self-blame and guilt can feed into the victim’s need for validation from their abuser, perpetuating the trauma bond and making it harder for them to recognize the true source of their suffering.


Trauma bonding is a complex and often misunderstood psychological phenomenon that can trap victims in abusive and harmful relationships. 

By understanding the most common signs of trauma bonding, individuals can better recognize when they or someone they know may be experiencing this phenomenon and take steps to seek help and support. 

Breaking free from a trauma bond can be incredibly difficult and painful, but with the right resources and support, victims can build healthier relationships and reclaim their lives.

Crossroads Collective is a healthcare clinic focused on healing individuals from a collective viewpoint. We believe in healing the mind and the body. We offer counselling, behavioural consultation, and more. If you’re in need of counselling in Kelowna, contact us today and get started.

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