How To Know & Beat Your Trauma Bond Withdrawal Symptoms

— Reviewed by Dr. Sandip Roy.

Sarah hadn’t slept in three days. Every time she started to drift off, she felt a jolt of panic, like she’d forgotten something that would make Mark unhappy.

She knew logically that leaving Mark was the best decision. Yet, the memories of his wild love gnawed at her. She missed those.

She felt a desperate longing to go back to him. The craving felt almost like a physical addiction, painful yet compelling.

Trauma bonds are emotional ties between two people where one is more powerful than the other. This more powerful person physically, mentally, and emotionally abuses the weaker one.

But when the victim leaves, or tries to leave, the relationship, they feel intense psychological and physical effects. These are called the trauma bond withdrawal symptoms.

  • When do they start?
  • How does the abuser build them?
  • And how can an adult victim successfully leave their abuser without feeling these symptoms?

By the way, there are 7 Stages of Trauma Bonding.

When Do Trauma Bonds Start

Trauma bonds often originate in childhood when a child faces neglect, abuse, or inconsistent treatment from a primary caregiver or parent.

These children are rewarded with fleeting displays of affection—intermittent positive reinforcement—between batteries of mistreatment. This makes them grow a deep emotional attachment and loyalty to their abuser.

Unresolved, this bonding pattern usually continues into adulthood. These adults often gravitate toward abusive romantic partners who show similar patterns of trauma and reinforcement.

Once your toxic partner builds these bonds with you, you die to go back to them.

Why Do You Want To Go Back To Your Abuser - Why Do You Feel Trauma Bond Withdrawal Symptoms

How An Abuser Builds A Trauma Bond

Abusers methodically cultivate trauma bonds through cycles of abuse and positive reinforcement. This hot-and-cold treatment makes the victim feel stuck with the very person who hurts them.

The roots of trauma bonding lie in modulating the brain’s responses:

  • Abuse triggers stress responses. Fear, intimidation, and coercion instill a sense of dread in the victim. The victim walks on eggshells and tries to please their abuser to avoid punishment.
  • Occasional crumbs of love, kindness, or apology make the victim crave these moments more. These rare moments of care trigger the brain to release oxytocin, deepening the victim’s desire to seek relief and love when going through abuse and torture.
  • Repeated cycles of mistreatment interspersed with occasional rewards create an imbalance. The victim seeks high validation but receives little. This drives them to form an addictive and loyalty-inducing emotional connection to the trauma-giver.

So, abusers exploit the brain’s responses to the human need for love and connection to keep their victims trapped.

Abusers exploit the human need for love to keep their victims trapped.

How To Know You Are Stuck In A Trauma Bond

Signs that you may be stuck in a trauma bond include:

  • feeling unable to leave the relationship despite knowing it is unhealthy,
  • making excuses for the abuser’s behavior,
  • feeling isolated and alone, and
  • experiencing intense emotional pain when attempting to leave the relationship.

What Are The Symptoms of Trauma Bond Withdrawal

When trying to leave a trauma-bonded relationship, victims often face intense withdrawal effects like those experienced in drug addiction.

Common Withdrawal Symptoms: These include depression, confusion, anxiety, sleep disturbances, flashbacks of mistreatment, guilt, shame, self-blame, overwhelm, anxiety, confusion, helplessness, hopelessness, and a strong urge to remain with or return to their abuser.

Fueled by emotional dependence and constant fear, these symptoms congeal into a warped loyalty and perverse love.

Trauma-bonded victims live in hope for the abuser’s warmth and relief from their cruelty. While their abusers methodically keep hardening these bonds through novel ways to torture and tranquilize.

How To Cope With Trauma Bond Withdrawal Symptoms

Here’s how to cope with trauma bond withdrawal symptoms:

  • Seek professional counseling and join a support group. A professional can help you understand and cope with your symptoms. They can help stop the urge to get back with your abusive partner. Having expert guidance and connecting with others who understand the complexities of trauma bonding is crucial. This validation can provide strength during moments of weakness.
  • Practice self-care diligently. Withdrawal depletes mental and physical resources. Prioritize getting adequate sleep, nutrition, exercise, and relaxation to rebuild your reserves. Self-care isn’t selfish – it’s necessary.
  • Identify your triggers and have a plan to cope. Certain situations, interactions, or reminders of the abuser may resurge traumatic feelings. Having healthy coping strategies ready like breathing exercises, journaling, or calling a supportive friend can short-circuit trauma bonds pulling you back.
  • Change your environment and routines. Physical and behavioral reminders reinforce the trauma bond. Making a clear break by moving, changing jobs, contacts, etc. helps rewire thought patterns.
  • Be patient and avoid self-judgment. Healing from a trauma bond takes time. You’ve undergone psychological reconditioning by an expert emotional manipulator. Expect setbacks, and don’t beat yourself up over moments of weakness.
  • Consider medications if your doctor recommends them. Consult a psychiatrist to find out if you need some antianxiety or antidepressant medications. They can help stabilize your wildly fluctuating emotions during acute withdrawal.
5 Things That Will Help You Get Over A Trauma Bond | Pep Talk

Final Thoughts

Breaking a trauma bond with an abuser like a narcissist can be extremely difficult because:

  • First, victims often don’t realize that they are in an inescapable situation — embedded trauma makes self-awareness difficult. Only when they get away from their abuser do they realize that something is wrong with them.
  • Second, the abuser has most likely socially isolated them so that they have no one to get a second opinion about their feelings and apprehensions.

The main idea is to cut all ties with your abusive partner forever.

To do so, consult a mental health practitioner. Engage in relaxation activities, take a breather from trying new relationships, set boundaries with people, and practice self-compassion.

Don’t rush it. Healing is a gradual process.

√ Please share it with someone if you found this helpful.

√ Also Read: Stockholm Syndrome vs. Trauma Bonding – The Hidden Truths

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When it comes to mental well-being, you don't have to do it alone. Going to therapy to feel better is a positive choice. Therapists can help you work through your trauma triggers and emotional patterns.