Exploring The 7 Stages of Trauma Bonding

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Sometimes a relationship can make a person feel secure or loved, when in reality a trauma bond has developed. Trauma bonding consists of an unhealthy cycle of one person inflicting physical and/or emotional abuse on another person. Because they follow it up with positive reinforcement, the person on the receiving end can believe they are in a loving relationship. Even when someone realizes they are living through the 7 stages of trauma bonding, they can find it incredibly challenging to exit the relationship. Montare Behavioral Health in Tucson provides focused residential care to help people overcome trauma inflicted on them. With the help of our skilled therapy team, people learn to identify and walk away from trauma-bonded relationships.

What is the Meaning of Trauma Bond?

A trauma bond is a connection that develops between a person who creates and enforces a traumatic attachment with someone else and their victim. The person commits acts of physical, sexual, and/or emotional abuse against another person, and then follows it up by providing positive reinforcement. This act traps the person in an unhealthy relationship and leaves them either unable to recognize they are taking part in trauma bonding or they feel powerless to leave the relationship. 

The most common type of trauma bond develops as part of a romantic relationship. They are also referred to as abusive relationships. The victim in the relationship feels damaged by the abuse but is conflicted when the abuser follows it up with loving and positive acts. This can include treating the victim kindly and apologizing for their behavior. Other types of relationships where trauma bonding can occur include between a child and an abusive parent or caregiver, and between friends or co-workers. As well, a kidnapper or human trafficker may trap a hostage in a trauma-bonded relationship. 

The 7 Stages of Trauma Bonding

There are 7 stages of trauma bonding. It’s important for someone in a trauma-bonded relationship or those who care about them to recognize the signs. The 7 stages are as follows:

Love Bombing

Love bombing is the act of flooding a person with grand romantic gestures, presents, and praise at the beginning of a relationship. It can feel overwhelming and validating and cause the person on the receiving end to believe that true love is occurring and they feel excited and trusting. However, the abuser is trying to gain control of the victim and gain their trust quickly.

Trust and Dependency

The abuser focuses on getting the victim to trust them and become dependent on them. They reinforce the idea that the two have a real and meaningful bond. Despite any beginning episodes of traumatic behavior, the victim may feel that ultimately the other person is good at heart, and they trust them and grow to rely on them.


The abuser begins to criticize the victim in an attempt to make them feel bad about themselves. Any discord between the two is blamed on the victim, which causes them to apologize and feel they are a bad person. They lose their ability to think critically about who is really to blame for problems in the relationship. 


The act of gaslighting involves trying to keep a person from seeing reality. It is a form of psychological abuse that makes the victim believe the abuser knows what’s going on, whereas the victim themselves starts to question their own reality. For example, the abuser might insist something they did or said never actually happened, and suggest the victim is lying or crazy.

Resignation and Submission

The victim becomes so used to the cycle of abuse followed by positive actions that they just accept the parameters of the relationship. They believe the good times outweigh the conflict and become more dependent on the abuser. If the victim is married or has kids, it often makes it more difficult for them to walk away from the relationship. This is particularly true if they rely on the abuser for financial support. 

Loss of Self

At this point, the victim loses a sense of who they are. They lack confidence in their ability to see things realistically and to survive outside the trauma bond. They often become isolated from family and friends and feel disconnected from their previous lives.


The victim now feels addicted to their relationship. The cycle of abuse followed by love bombing and positive reinforcement feels familiar and provides a false sense of love and security. This emotional addiction makes it more difficult to exit the relationship.

What are the Effects of Trauma Bonding?

Someone who has been through the 7 stages of trauma bonding experiences negative effects as a result. They often develop poor mental health, including disorders such as depression and anxiety. The victim usually isolates to some degree from family and friends, often with encouragement to do so from the abuser. Someone experiencing trauma bonding usually covers up the behavior of their abuser or defends it to others. They deny that something is wrong or that they need to leave the relationship. This causes their self-esteem and sense of worth to nosedive. 

Is There Treatment for Trauma Bonding?

Someone who has endured or is still mired in the 7 stages of trauma bonding may feel like finding help is hopeless. In fact, several types of therapy modalities help people overcome trauma and move on with their lives. These include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR). These therapies can be done in a private therapist’s office, an outpatient facility, or a residential treatment center. 

How Does it Help?

The therapies that aid people who have experienced trauma bonding work by helping people in a variety of ways. CBT helps people identify their negative and false beliefs and reframe them into positive ones. DBT teaches a person how to use mindfulness, interpersonal effectiveness, emotion regulation, and distress tolerance. All of these skills help a person overcome the negative results of having been traumatized. EMDR therapy uses directed eye movements in a non-invasive therapy that helps people process their trauma in a way that removes its ability to retraumatize them whenever they think about it. 

Find Effective Treatment for Trauma Bonding Today

Do you recognize yourself as being in a relationship based on trauma bonding? If you need help walking away or you have already ended a trauma bond and need treatment to overcome its effects, we can help. Montare Behavioral Health in Tucson created a residential setting that provides a safe haven that feels like a home. Staying with us gives you a quiet place to relax and begin reassessing your mental health and goals for moving forward. We believe in using evidence-based and holistic therapies to empower you and show you there is a way to live without trauma ruling your emotions and behaviors.

Would you like to know more about how to put the effects of trauma in your past? Contact us today and see how we can help you make real and lasting progress.