Developing a trauma bond addiction is a complex and intricate phenomenon that can occur in abusive or traumatic relationships. When individuals experience repeated cycles of abuse, neglect, and mistreatment, they may develop a strong emotional attachment to their abuser. Individuals may turn to substance abuse to offer temporary relief to escape this kind of abuse. However, some may become addicted to the abuse, resulting in the victim developing a trauma bond addiction.
In this article, we will discuss what a trauma bond is, how to recognize when you or a loved one are trauma-bonded, the relationship between addiction and trauma, and how to break a trauma bond.
What is a Trauma Bond?
A trauma bond is a psychological connection that forms between individuals who have experienced intense and often abusive situations together. It involves emotions like fear, excitement, and sexual attraction that can manipulate and trap the person involved. The bond is characterized by alternating cycles of intense love and excitement, followed by episodes of mistreatment and abuse. This inconsistent intermittent reinforcement creates a sense of uncertainty and a heightened emotional bond with the abuser.
Trauma bonds can develop in various situations where abuse or violence occurs and are not limited to abusive relationships. For example, a child enduring abuse from an alcoholic parent or a prisoner of war forming a strong bond with their captors can experience trauma bonds. In recent years, addiction recovery centers have noticed an increase in individuals who find themselves in trauma-bonded relationships while also struggling with substance use disorders. This is why it’s important to recognize the signs and stages of trauma bonds and understand the relationship between trauma and addiction.
Learn more about what classifies as a traumatic event here.
Signs & Stages of Trauma Bonds
Trauma bonds can be characterized by specific signs and stages that reflect the dynamics of the relationship and the emotional attachment that forms between the victim and the abuser. It is important to note that not all individuals will experience the same signs or progress through the stages similarly. However, recognizing these signs and stages can be vital in addressing the abuse and beginning the healing process.
Some of the most common stages of trauma bonding can include the following:
- Idealization Stage: In the idealization stage, the abuser often engages in love bombing the victim, showering them with love and affection. This creates a deep emotional bond between the victim and the abuser, causing the victim to trust the abuser and develop intense feelings of love and admiration.
- Devaluation Stage: Over time, the behavior of the abuser will start to change, and they will begin to devalue the victim, leading to a shift in the relationship dynamic. This stage is where most of the abuse is seen, as the abuser begins to gaslight and manipulate the victim with intermittent episodes of abuse.
- Bonding Stage: Despite the abuse, a strong bond will form between the victim and the abuser. The positive reinforcement from the idealization stage and the manipulation during the devaluation stage cause confusion for the victim but results in an intense emotional attachment.
Some of the most common signs of trauma bonding can include:
- Imbalance of power
- A repetitive cycle of abuse
- Distancing from family members or friends
- Defending the abuser’s behavior
- Focusing on previous ‘good times’ instead of the present abuse
- Believing you can change them yourself
The Trauma of Addiction
Experiencing trauma can cause various psychological effects that impact your daily life. Because of this impact, many individuals will turn to substance abuse as a way to be able to cope with the trauma they faced throughout their life. Addiction can also lead to trauma through negative consequences related to substance abuse, including unhealthy relationships, legal issues, financial difficulties, and health problems, intensifying feelings of shame and despair.
Early life trauma, such as abuse, neglect, or loss of a caregiver, can profoundly impact individuals and increase their vulnerability to developing addiction as a coping mechanism. The trauma caused by addiction further erodes trust, crosses boundaries, and inflicts harm on loved ones, deepening the sense of isolation and shame. Additionally, addiction affects emotional and psychological well-being, triggering intense anxiety, depression, guilt, and self-esteem.
The cycle of substance abuse and attempts to quit can perpetuate chronic stress and trauma-related symptoms. Trauma triggers can also cause past traumatic experiences to resurface, making individuals more susceptible to relapse and self-destructive behaviors, further perpetuating the cycle of addiction.
Continue reading here to learn how to avoid unhealthy coping mechanisms for trauma.
Does Trauma Always Lead to Addiction or Substance Use?
The relationship between trauma and addiction can be cyclical, with one leading to another and vice versa. People who have experienced trauma may turn to drugs or addictive behaviors to escape reality. According to the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, one-quarter of people who have survived traumatic experiences have turned to alcohol or drug abuse.
Individuals with traumatic pasts may be more susceptible to addiction as a way to regulate their mood, suppress intrusive thoughts, and cope with the heightened stress caused by the trauma. Substance abuse provides temporary relief and may create a sense of control over their emotions, even if it harms their overall well-being.
Understanding the type of trauma the individual experienced is crucial to treat their addiction effectively and for their long-term recovery. By looking at the type of trauma they face, professionals can use trauma-informed therapy and integrated treatment programs to help individuals heal properly.
Types of Trauma in an Addictive Household
Living in an addictive household exposes individuals to various traumatic experiences that can significantly impact their well-being. These experiences can have long-lasting effects on an individual’s physical, emotional, and mental health. Some of the traumas that an individual can experience in an addictive household include:
- Emotional abuse
- Verbal abuse
- Physical abuse
- Boundary violations
- Domestic violence
- Caretaking or rescuing of the abusive person
How to Break a Trauma Bond
Breaking a trauma bond addiction can be challenging and complex, especially when involved with an abusive partner. Breaking off a trauma bond with someone requires dedication and commitment to improving your overall well-being. There are several strategies you can utilize to break free from a trauma bond. Some of these can include:
- Educating yourself about trauma-bonding and toxic relationships
- Seeking out professional help
- Prioritize self-care and ensure your well-being
- Build a support group with family members or friends
- Invest time into yourself to facilitate personal growth
Trauma-Informed Addiction Treatment Services in Los Angeles, CA
Learning that you have formed a trauma bond addiction is not easy to come to terms with. You most likely have suffered from a loss of self, toxic behaviors, and drug addiction while experiencing a trauma bond. To heal from this, receiving trauma-informed addiction treatment services is essential to ensure a proper dual diagnosis and treatment plan.
Launch Centers, located in Los Angeles, CA, is proud to offer comprehensive, holistic, and trauma-informed addiction treatment services to young adults who have experienced trauma bond addictions. Our mental health and addiction treatment services are designed for young adults, ensuring that when our clients leave treatment, they are prepared for the real world with all the necessary resources.
If you or a loved one are experiencing mental health problems, substance use disorder, or trauma bond addiction, contact us today to learn more about our programs.