Trauma Bonding, You’re Doing It Wrong

Published in
3 min readMay 10, 2023


Somehow, we seem to keep having these types of misunderstandings…

Photo Source: Unsplash via JD Mason

After listening to various misguided online conversations, I decided to make this post. While I’m excited that more people are starting to learn about toxic relationships and how they affect our mental health, it’s also rather annoying to see so many people using overused buzzwords that they haven’t researched and don’t fully understand.

“Trauma bonding” is such a term. I’ve been hearing this critical term peppered throughout various relationship discussions. However, it seems that it’s rarely used in the proper capacity. So, since you’re clearly someone who cares enough to learn about such things, let’s clear this matter up once and for all.

What it Isn’t…

Before we delve into what trauma bonding is, let’s first discuss what it isn’t. And that is the general internet definition, which means bonding over sharing traumatic stories. But unfortunately, I’ve come to realize that many people seem to believe that trauma bonding is literally bonding over past traumas.

However, this is not the case. Based on this definition, trauma bonding would be a totally normal and acceptable convention. It’s actually very natural to bond with others over shared traumatic experiences. Doing so can help us feel understood, supported and can even help us get closer to others.

What it is…

Now that we know what trauma bonding isn’t, let’s discuss what it actually is.

According to Psychology Today,

Trauma-bonding is a hormonal attachment created by repeated abuse, sprinkled with being ‘saved’ every now and then. A slightly different version of this cycle can be seen when we are sitting at a slot machine in Vegas. It’s called intermittent reinforcement, and casinos have long used the data surrounding it to help us pour our life savings into their hands in the hope that we might finally ‘win.’

In other words, trauma bonding refers to what happens during the moments in which an abusive partner is not actively abusing and is being helpful or pleasant instead. For instance, if you have a physically or emotionally abusive partner who occasionally takes a break to take you out or…



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