You may feel pretty crazy over there in your trauma bonded trance for someone who mistreated you, but know there are people actually eating dirt out there and making more sense than some of the well-meaning advice I heard while I was getting over various forms of heartbreak.

We are told to stop fixating, face the fear of moving on, focus on yourself, and that time heals all wounds. When in fact, the symptoms of a traumatic reaction to a trauma bond make these very things feel nearly impossible.

What’s more, when taken in the context of trauma bonding, prolonged grief over the loss of a relationship is far from irrational, even when that relationship was a toxic one. If you feel more stunned and immobilized as time wears on, this is the reaction of your organism actually working to protect you from a perceived, ongoing threat.

You are not crazy. Your body’s physiological state is just trying to communicate with you in a way that you may not quite understand yet.

There are people all over the world who experience cravings for dirt or clay. This is called geophagy and clearly sounds so insane that people feel ashamed to admit their cravings.  Yet research has found that these cravings may indicate a lack in bodily mineral content or may function as the body’s protective response to pathogens in pregnant women or children. The content of dirt or clay may serve as a protective barrier in the stomach.

What may FEEL mentally and physiologically irrational, actually makes sense. This does not mean that anemic people should make themselves a nice dirt snack with their coffee this afternoon. It does mean that feeling estranged, ashamed, and ignoring the REALITY of the craving, without looking further into what it indicates, will never resolve their organism’s unmet need.

What is trauma bonding?

I only started to understand trauma bonding when I stopped feeling ashamed and started trusting my body’s own physiological messengers.

Breaking a trauma bond can feel agonizing. What’s the point of trying to accept the reality of a toxic relationship, go no contact, and try to move on with your life when you only feel worse as time wears on?

Breaking a trauma bond comes with intense withdrawal symptoms, flashbacks, cravings for the toxic person, compulsive thoughts about what happened, and an anxious state that may make you feel like you are going backward, without abate.  

This is going to sound counterintuitive at first, but these very symptoms are confirmation that staying away from the toxic relationship is absolutely imperative to your health. This is because trauma resides as a physiological response to a perceived threat. Your organism knows and reacts, at the core, gut, and instinctual level, when a person or situation is harmful.

And while you may be fully consciously aware NOW that you are no longer in the relationship, your body is still registering an ongoing threat. This is manifesting in symptoms that certainly make you feel like you are going crazy — or maybe even make you feel as if you were never meant to stay away in the first place.

But all this DOES NOT mean that your body is trying to indicate to you that you are forever cosmically tied to that dirtbag who mistreated you, used you, and broke your heart. It means that the trauma that may have occurred before the relationship, during the relationship, and when the relationship ended, continues to live inside of you. It continues to live as a memory and echo that has no orientation to time and place.

You are feeling this way because, physiologically, you still don’t feel safe.

You will NOT be the person who longs for the person who mistreated you forever. But it’s going to be hard to get there if your strategy is to grit your teeth, brace yourself, and steel even more energy in trying to fight your body’s frantic physiological responses to the trauma in the trauma bond, through sheer will, when you are already frozen in emergency mode.

Stay with me. I’ll explain.

We look into trauma bonding as a way to explain, romanticize, and decode the characteristics of a relationship that feels or once felt so precious.

Here’s the gut punch that usually gets lost —when you’re in a trauma bond, and the bond “breaks,” the trauma remains.

If you’re a cookie in an Oreo and the other cookie leaves, guess who is stuck with what seems like even more trauma filling than you started with?

This “trauma filling” can help to explain why your mind, body, and soul are registering a frenetic, obsessive, red level, emergency breaker craving for a toxic ex, toxic relationship, or situation.

The Trauma Bond

The reason for this hyper-aroused-anxiety-trance lies in some part to the nature of trauma bonding itself. Trauma bonds are formed when your organism registers that you are in danger.

According to “The Betrayal Bond,” a book written by Patrick Carnes, who developed this concept, “trauma bonds are the dysfunctional attachments that occur in the presence of danger, shame, or exploitation. Trauma bonds occur when we are bonding to the very person who is the source of danger, fear, and exploitation.” They involve seduction, betrayal, and high intensity.

They also involve a seemingly endless sense of helplessness and hopelessness. Carnes wrote, “This type of bonding does not facilitate recovery and resilience but rather undermines those very qualities within us.”

Throughout the relationship, your organism assessed the threat and continuously mobilized energy for you to fight or flee. Yet the trauma in trauma bonding creates a cyclical, repetitive cycle that contains your ability to protect yourself, trust yourself, feel your body’s physiological reactions or evolve out of your current state, even when your partner is gone.

Instead of fighting or fleeing, you remain frozen and clinging with an “insane level of loyalty, to an impossible, unresolvable, toxic, overwhelming, or cosmically doomed bond.” A person chained to this type of bond “disbelieves the obvious and accepts the impossible.”

The following are some signs of trauma bonding, which I’ve adapted from Carnes:

  • When you continue to be fixated on people who hurt you and who are no longer in your life.
  • When you crave contact with someone who has hurt you and who you know will cause you more pain.
  • When you continue to revolve around people who you know are taking advantage of you or exploiting you.
  • When you are committed to remaining loyal to someone who has betrayed you, even though their actions indicate few signs of change.
  • When you are desperate to be understood, validated, or needed by those who have indicated they do not care about you.
  • When you go to great lengths to continue to help, caretake, or consider people who have been destructive to you.

These types of relationships capitalize on old wounds and previous traumas.

As a bigger and separate topic, there are a lot of reasons for why we may be vulnerable to trauma bonding, to begin with, including a deep desire to heal a prior hurt. We do this by subconsciously recreating the prior situation, down to the very exploitative, dangerous, or shameful elements that existed in the prior trauma. Down to the type of toxic, emotionally unavailable, or developmentally stunted person in the prior situation.

The reasons why we get into these types of bonds, the reasons we stay, and the reasons why we can’t let them go are interrelated, and at least one thing remains the same: our body stores these memories physiologically, without a time or date stamp. The memories can make us feel like we are in an endless cycle of trauma and pain, with or without the relationship.

The Trauma

Trauma is a big concept, that lives on much developing academic ground. I’m no expert, and what I’m saying is informed by the work of trauma researchers Peter Levine, Bessel van der Kolk, and Patrick Carnes, but this is simply my interpretation.

Viewing your seemingly irrational reactions to heartbreak through a trauma-informed lens will reduce some part of the shame that comes with continuing to live in a body that is suspended in a hyper-aroused and frenetic state long after we are told that we should be over a relationship or situation.

There are different kinds of trauma. Some are the types of trauma we are typically aware of —responses to natural disasters, war, abuse, genocide, and other atrocities. We associate those traumas with the development of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which has helped to explain how victims survive in dire circumstances, including why the victims end up turning against themselves and becoming loyal to the abuser, as in the case of Stockholm Syndrome.

Understanding trauma begins when you remove judgment from the equation about the degree of atrocity that must exist in order to define trauma as trauma. There are other aspects of trauma, such as those that involve the body’s response to betrayal, childhood experiences, and interpersonal relationship trauma. A traumatic reaction is a completely subjective thing. There are more possible situations/origins of trauma than there are people.

Trauma lives inside the body as a physiological state. It will be easier to become aware of the manifestation of this state and to give it credibility if you realize that trauma can occur in the absence of abusers, victimizers, and overtly dire situations. You can have a traumatic reaction to anything or anyone that your body perceives as a threat, including a break in attachment with even the most well-meaning, non-intentionally insidious, but emotionally empty people.

Peter Levine has defined trauma as “Any experience which stuns us like a bolt out of the blue; it overwhelms us, leaving us altered and disconnected from our bodies.” It is difficult to access coping mechanisms while in this overwhelmed state. This reaction can become more intense when the relational trauma occurs for long periods of time, with intermittent reinforcement, and when it is layered on top of relational trauma that occurred in childhood.

The stunned shock of anything that your body perceives as a threat, including a betrayal or a breakup, can live inside of us as a physiological state, even when we are not in present danger — when we are out of the breakup, moved out, and presumably moved on. Our bodies are engaged in a survival response even when out of the danger — which manifests itself as a freeze state that makes all the negative emotions you felt while in the relationship freeze within you as well.

What is this? Why does this happen? 

The Freeze State.

It happens as a result of a completely natural human reaction to a potentially threatening situation. Peter Levine has explained how trauma develops in his book, “Waking the Tiger.” When faced with perceived danger or challenge, we become energetically aroused, mobilized, and poised to pounce, respond, and defend. This is the reason why weaklings are able to lift cars in order to rescue children. Our bodies were built to generate tremendous energy and appropriately constrict it so that it can be released. So we can fight or flee from threats for our very survival. When the energy is released, there is a tremendous sense of relief and somatic calm. There is no trauma. The situation makes sense to us because we witnessed our bodies working with us to resolve a threat.

So what happens to this tremendous, do-or-die energy isn’t released? When we feel we cannot fight or flee, as in the case of a trauma bond, there isn’t a discharge of this energy.

Instead, we hard stop freeze. Unlike other animals, our more highly evolved neocortex prevents an instinctual response of releasing this energy anyway, when the freeze state ends. Without the release, our body constricts this incredible bundle of energy and contains it in our nervous system. We are suspended in a highly mobilized emergency alert state, hypervigilant, and brimming with energy that our body now has to shift around, negotiate, and safety-valve slowly expel through adaptations that make us feel like we are experiencing an anxiety reaction. This too, is our body working for us, to prevent a nervous system meltdown.

This is trauma.

An example of this is when you brace yourself during the impact of a car accident and later find yourself completely motionless, your knuckles white from gripping the steering wheel, adrenaline coursing through you, heart rate is racing, breathing heavily, with almost no memory of the event.

Why won’t our “smarter” brain allow us to discharge this energy during the freeze state? Again, your body is trying its best to protect you. When that tremendous force of arousal energy is first triggered, it makes us feel up to the task, positive, and intensely alive. When the release is thwarted and is instead subsumed inwardly, we associate the energy with intensely negative emotions.

All those feelings and all the energy that you might have expelled during the relationship in a fight or flight response — all the anger, the shame, and the fear — now reside within you and may feel like are directed TOWARD you.

Our “smarter” brain attempts to protect us by negotiating these emotions within our circuitry because it believes that this work will protect us from experience sheer terror of the release. We fear releasing them because the energy itself is so strongly associated with danger, betrayal, and fear. You are now the home of negative energy that was never meant to be yours.

What does this have to do with your inability to let go of a toxic relationship?

Why does all of this slow you down when it comes to commonplace advice like “stop fixating, face the fear of moving on, and focus on yourself?”

Breaking trauma bonds.

The reason it feels like you can’t “break” a traumatic bond is because you are still suffering from your body’s adaptations to all of this chaotic, negative energy that is now stored inside. These very adaptations cause you to constantly review what happened, to fixate, to refrain from feeling fear and grief, and to obsess about the relationship.

• Anxiety.

The nervous system experiences trauma as a body feeling. In other words, your hyper-alert state lives on as symptoms that can be perceived as anxiety: increased heart rate, tension, agitation, flashbacks, shudders, muscle soreness, and racing thoughts.

All of this anxiety can feel unfair. We know it’s normal to feel grief over the loss of a relationship, but the hope is that we will feel some sense of relief once we get the courage to let go of someone we loved, but who we know is toxic, narcissistic, or emotionally unavailable. Hang on. Your body is communicating to you that internally, you still feel as if you are in danger. Because this anxiety state is so closely associated with the trauma bond, this may feel like a craving for your ex and the trauma bond, when it is in fact, a frantic message to stay away.

• Helplessness.

When exposed to personal trauma, the part of the brain that processes information, puts things into context, and communicates to you in narrative form shuts down. You are suspended in emergency activation mode, but without an ability to cope with the stress.

This is why no contact is so important. When exposed to anything that reminds you of your former partner, your nervous system triggers energy to communicate the presence of a threat but prevents you from consciously putting that threat into the context of what is occurring here and now. In this state, it can feel hard to learn new things or assimilate information.

This is why it can feel like such a gut punch to see your ex or hear about his or her life, even after time has passed and you are sure “you got this.” It can leave you feeling helpless and hopeless.

Trauma bonds don’t “heal with time” because trauma doesn’t have a sense of time. Don’t expect to never feel triggered. Feeling triggered does not mean that you are “back to square one” when it comes to processing the breakup. It means that you are experiencing traumatic anxiety, which once again makes you feel like you are frozen and immobilized. This can lead you to feel depressed even though the current stressor is no longer around. Don’t lose hope. Even the smallest bit of awareness of what is actually occurring will help you to unfreeze out of this state, and this will get more automatic and manageable the more you increase this awareness.

• Flashbacks.

Because you are not able to put your physiological distress into a time and place context, you are not able to consciously recognize that the traumatic event happened in the past. This causes confusion between past trauma and current stressors. Your body, behind the scenes, may be experiencing today’s stressful day as a flashback to the past, as if the trauma has returned.

Life goes on after a trauma bond. Other people and situations will stress you out and trigger anxious feelings that you will subconsciously associate with the trauma bond. This is why stressful days and subsequent disappointments make you feel like you are missing the trauma bond more intensely.

Trauma is like a trance. It makes you less aware of your current state, your bodily sensations, and your feelings. When you start to feel more safe, grounded, and present, you will slowly become more aware of when these flashbacks occur. You will feel less entranced and more able to untangle your prior distress from what is currently happening in your life.

• Trauma repetition review.

After an animal goes into fight, flight, or freeze and releases all the energy its nervous system conjured to get out of a dangerous situation, the animal goes into a review state. The point of this is to figure out what happened and to learn from the experience. Trauma bonded humans also go into this state, except the review occurs in a highly aroused and anxious state, because the energy from the experience has not been released.

This is why it is so difficult to stop fixating on what occurred, why you are experiencing obsessive thoughts, replaying old scripts, and why you feel abandoned and rejected long after a traumatic break has occurred. You are processing the trauma bond while you are still in a stressed and hyperaroused state.

This is why talking about trauma, rehashing the situation with your friends, and recycling anger doesn’t make you feel better and only further retraumatizes you. It may feel like you lost something important because you can’t let go of compulsively thinking about the trauma bond. This repetitive rehashing is healthy and normal, but only when conducted when you are out of an anxiety state and feeling grounded, safe, and present.

The antidote to compulsive rehashing is to remember that trauma lives inside the body, as a physiological state. Once activated, it shuts down your ability to process information. There’s nothing wrong with trying to figure out what happened, but know that doing so in this triggered state may make you feel like you need to return to the trauma bond.

• Hypervigilance.

Hypervigilance is the inevitable result of all of this hyperarousal. In trying to make sense of how you are feeling, your body actively searches for the source of the threat, even when one cannot be found. This drive can feel like a fixation to scan for the source, even though what you may just be reacting to is your own internal arousal. This gets repetitive and compulsive.

Your body remembers the trauma bond. It remembers how it felt and who was around. Even out of the relationship, a trauma bonded person may still feel threatened by either a memory of the past when dealing with a current stressor.  Your brain scans for a source of the threat. Your brain lands on the emotionally charged memory and image of someone associated with the trauma bond. You may feel plagued by images of your ex-partner, but this is only because your body remembers this person as a source of threat, not because you need to run back to this person.

All of these symptoms occur because your nervous system is suspended in a hyper-aroused state, searching for new danger, and attempting to protect you. The key to releasing the trauma bond is to remind yourself, carefully, with compassion, and with consistency that you are no longer in danger and that you are now safe.

This, first and foremost, has to be true. If you are still in any way involved in a trauma bond, then you are not safe. It may feel like you’ve hacked it and you are over it and you are ready for contact or another round, but your physiological systems will likely tell you otherwise.

When you start to feel triggered, remind yourself of where you are in time and space. You may be experiencing a physiological memory of the past that makes you feel as if you are re-experiencing the trauma. Trauma robs you of your ability to stay in the present. It drops you in a trance and prevents you from recognizing what you are feeling — both emotionally and physiologically. There are many ways of grounding, including yoga, breath work, meditation, journaling, spending time in nature, among so many others. Once you get committed to healing, you will seek and find endless sources of information and relief in these. The key is to begin. Yoga will not release your trauma bond. Going for a hike will not make flashbacks and obsessive thoughts go away. These things may, however, bring you more awareness to your sensations and feelings, which will help you stay in the present when you feel yourself becoming taken over in a trauma bonded trance.

Become emotionally available to yourself. The way to release a trauma bond is to very slowly and compassionately separate the amount of fear, that you may not even know you feel, about your negative emotions from the negative emotions themselves. These negative emotions are stored inside of you because your body internalized them, instead of using the energy of these emotions to flee or fight. They are not yours. These emotions are not your anger or your shame. You are safe now. You no longer need them. But you need a really safe base in yourself, your enviornment, and others in order to slowly release these. Be kind to yourself. It’s not easy to let go.

A symptom of being trauma bonded is an intense desire to inform the person who hurt you about your healing. Don’t do that. It will only entrench you further. Your stored negative energy is not your own, but it’s not your ex’s either. It may feel like you have to “place” it somewhere, but this will not get rid of it, and you will only re-traumatize yourself. You can’t put it somewhere else. You can replace it with the knowledge this energy is no longer necessary to protect you, because you are safe now.

Trauma-bonded people are usually the foremost experts on their exes. In order to survive, they can discern mood changes from small facial movements, sideways grunts, or the way a person is standing. Start becoming this aware of yourself.

Start noticing what triggers you, when you are feeling hyper-vigilant, when you are reviewing or processing the relationship in a stressed out state. Start noticing when your flashbacks occur. You may find that they are actually occurring in response to current life stressors.

In becoming aware of this, you may find that there are other toxic people and situations in your current life that you can let go of in order to feel more safe. When other toxic bonds fall away, you may feel more ready to be yourself. When you feel more ready to be yourself, you may become even less ashamed and more emotionally aware. You can start to recognize which thoughts and emotions aren’t yours.

When you separate these, you will feel even more safe. Becoming more self-aware is work with a huge payoff, and you’re already so good doing it with everyone but yourself.

When you separate the past from the present, you will start to have more fun in the present. You will solve the present problems better. You will start to feel more like yourself again. You are safe now, and soon…

You will be free.

This post was written by Irena xx

If you need further and more personalized help with your relationship, please look into working with me here.


Get Natasha’s 7 life-changing & essential boundaries straight to your inbox.
Sign up to receive exclusive content, updates + more.

Your free download has been emailed to you. Please make sure you confirm your email address. 

You May Also Like




This is so high caliber. I love it. It’s powerfully soothing and oh so practical. Trauma bonds can hold us the most unholy places. And we all deserve to be free of that. Thank you ?♥️


Thank you, Lorelle. Your support means so much to me. Love you, sister.


Agreed. Love you both 🙂 xx


I have read hundreds of articles on this subject in order to better understand what I am going through in this is by far the best and resonated with me at an incredible level. I sincerely appreciate the care that you put into this and I can only imagine how many people it has helped. Thank you so much for your time and consideration and doing this for us!


Jack, I agree!

Irena did such a fantastic job on this piece. Happy that you are here and that this post helped.


Irena, wow, wow, wow. This is the most comprehensive, relatable, empowering and truthful article I have ever read on trauma bonds.

It took me a long time to finally understand that my true healing was being hampered because I thought I was going through just a break up…..yes, from an unhealthy relationship, but I couldn’t understand why this was so damn difficult to deal with…My searching eventually led to the concept of trauma bonds, and it made me realise I needed professional help…. There were too many layers to deal with this on my own… but it made oh, so much sense.

My constant hyper-vigilance, my anxiety which manifested in physical symptoms….. major digestive issues! Adrenal fatigue, brain fog, flashbacks, triggers….. my body was really saying “Warning! Warning!”

I am in awe of this Irena….. thank you so much for writing this…. it is SO important that we understand the impact of the trauma bond and how to break it.

Mai x


P.S. While l was with him, I ended up going on anti anxiety meds…… I thought my anxiety stemmed from our situation (LDR, constant stress from trying to work out a solution to our situation)….. my blood pressure also was through the roof, when I had never had high blood pressure in my life… Dr wanted me to wear a monitor and possibly go on blood pressure medication (I eat well, am fit and am a healthy weight)

4 months after the break up, I had no need for medication, and my blood pressure was back to my previously healthy levels.

Though I was still dealing with the trauma bond, I think my body instinctively knew I was finally out of danger. I was safe again.

Our bodies are amazing.

Mai x


Agree. Our bodies are so amazing. The minute I started to work WITH my body and to realize that it was trying to protect me, was when a world of healing started taking place. But you’re right — when we’re in any relationship, much less a toxic one, it can be easy to think that our body is reacting to the normal stress and problems surrounding the relationship — instead of a much deeper issue. I’m so glad to hear that you are feeling better!



I just got out of a relationship, the first week was the hardest. I felt regret and guilty to the point I questioned my sanity . This is the second week got better, I read these articles and I feel better. I have gone no contact. I feel better but part of me is scared I want him to come back and other part of me doesn’t. I am still coping on that. I am proud of my two week progress.

Thank you


Hi Yuri,

Thank you for your comment. I know it’s tough to feel those feelings of fear and regret – hang in there and please take care. You are not crazy and you are never alone. Much love to you. xo, Irena


Mai hi, just read your comment, I too suffer from digestive issues as a result of bad relationships ( friends, family,guys) how did you deal with it/get rid of it. Cos it’s bern an issue for me. ? thank you.


Hi Denise! Hope you’re well…. I’ve been thinking of you….

My digestive issues (I had diarrhoea and malabsorption for 10 months PLUS would regularly be throwing up from stress when I was around him)
miraculously disappeared when he discarded me….. no joke…. even though I was in so much pain, and so hurt, my body instinctively knew I was safe from the abuse. Crazy, huh?

However, during the time of the issues, I just made sure I continued to eat well, I’m pretty passionate about healthy, clean food…. so I made sure I maintained a good diet.

Funnily enough, I went to France for a month with good friends whilst I was still with him….. just being away from the source of my trauma and around positive people giving me pure and healthy energy, caused my body to naturally heal….. of course, as soon as I returned to him, the somatic symptoms reappeared instantly…… having constant “butterflies” around someone is NOT love lol! It’s trauma manifesting as anxiety.

Lessons learned.

Mai x


Hi Mai,
Thank you so much for your comment,(I love them), I am definitely gonna try to create more distance, especially emotional distance from all my triggers. Thanks so much Mai.


Hi Mai,

Thank you so much for your comment. I think our reactions to trauma bonding can be so confusing, and I’m so happy to hear that you recognized them as messages of danger and that you are feeling relief now.I think there are so many people out there who are stuck in a cycle of toxic relationships and feel so badly, physically, spiritually, and emotionally that they can’t even conceive of leaving. Thank you so much for sharing. I know it makes everyone feels less alone and provides a window into a better world. It takes SO much courage to be as self aware as you were — to even notice that you felt better in France, away from the source of the stress and to connect those two things together. You are an inspiration. Thank you for being part of this community and for being you! So much love to you. xo, Irena


Beautifully written Irena. I didn’t know about trauma bonds till now. I can definitely identify with a lot of the things you wrote; the flashbacks, talking about the situation with people, anxiety , helplessness and being hypervigilant. I love this post❤️. I’ll definitely read in any time I feel the need to reach out or seek crumbs.


Thank you, Denise. Your comment means so much to me. Thank you for being part of this community. You are loved and never alone. xo, Irena


This article was so informative, well written and insightful. I honestly have been thinking something is seriously wrong with me. I had never heard of trauma bonds and suddenly so many things are making sense. Thank you so much for laying this out and clearly explaining a complicated emotional state. Very well done.
Thank you Natasha for finding and sharing this gem with us.



Thank you so much for your kind comment. It means so much to me that this resonated with you. Trust me — there is nothing wrong with you. Your body is amazing and is working to protect you. <3 Thank you for being part of this community, and please know you are never alone. Much love to you! xo, Irena


Mai- Reading your comments gave me chills. I experienced almost the same exact thing with my ex. Anxiety that would not quit and was relentless. I couldn’t eat; I couldn’t keep food down. Whenever he would lie to me, I would get horrible nausea and panic attacks. It was also a LDR. Just like you, I realised that my body was trying to warn me of the danger. NEVER again will I ignore those signs. The physical symptoms were intense. My anxiety completely left my body after the breakup.


Olivia, how crazy is it? I was so accustomed to the intense physical reality of being around him…. it’s only now that I can appreciate the calm and stillness that envelopes my life and see it as a positive thing. We get so used to the “crazy”…. they condition us to accept that as our new normality….. it’s so fucked up. And I would be in his bed and feel blessed?! Knowing my body was rejecting everything about our situation….. urghhhh.

I’m so glad your anxiety has left as well. As Irene says…. we’re safe. Embrace this.

This article is so on point.

Mai x


Hello Irena.
I never even knew such a thing existed. I did not know ther was even a definition for all the things I did and still experience. I did wonder if I experienced a trauma and now I see it’s possible. I agree that we are not very conscious of ourselves. We can be the expert on others but really we need to be more concerned with our emotional health instead of those who care less about us.
This was an education for me. I read it twice and I’m sure I will again. Thank you for this in depth and detailed description of the experiences one can have. It was a bright light for me.
Be well Irena.


Hi Linda,

Thank you so much for your comment. It means so much to me to know that this resonated with you in some way. I think we can get really down on ourselves for the way that we feel. It’s sad to know that we can feel ashamed of these types of feelings when it is totally normal to feel this way after going through a traumatic experience. Thank you for sharing and for being part of this community. You are loved and never alone. xo, Irena


Wow, I’m speechless reading this…I’m going to re-read it again later. This completely describes how I feel and why it’s so hard for me to let go of a toxic ex. I still find myself romanticizing the situation, missing him, and feeling pain contractions so frequently even though I’ve implemented no contact. I’ve felt so discouraged to still be holding on to a lot of hurt and bitterness about his actions and betrayal, despite me moving forward in other relationships. I feel like I still fixate on him and have so much anxiety and depression relating to it. I’ve even been tempted on numerous occasions to run right back to him despite knowing nothing has changed. This post gives me hope by showing me what I’m experiencing is a physiological reaction. That it’s natural and it’s my body’s way of protecting myself. I’m going to keep working towards letting go, acceptance, and indifference. But I’m going to be patient with myself and give myself a lot of love, especially during the moments of experiencing symptoms from the trauma bond.

Thank you for this post, Irena. It was well researched and presented to help all of us deal with trauma bonds.

And thank you, Natasha for providing an environment we can all heal together.

xx Erica


Thank you for this post, Irena! This spoke to my experiences so much – not just relationships, but other trauma as well. Our bodies are for us at all times, we just do not want to heed what its telling us. American society is so much about not feeling, band-aiding problems, numbing yourself, compartmentalizing and so on. To heal, you need to sit with and listen to yourself. And you laid that out so perfectly. Again, THANK YOU!



Thank you so much for your kind comment. It means so much to me that this was helpful to someone. I totally agree that so much of our society is about avoiding feelings. We get gold stars for being busy, accomplishing tasks, and leading with our egos. It’s incredibly hard to start listening to yourself in that kind of environment. Especially when healing and integrating trauma doesn’t fit into a neat timeline. Thank you for sharing and for being part of this community. Much love to you. xo, Irena.


What an amazing, practical post! I love how you made clear points and shared very straightforward information on what it actually is and how we’re supposed to read our reactions.

It’s been over 2 years since I’ve had my heart badly broken and I can say I’ve reached indifference and nothing about the person bothers me anymore. What’s really surprising though, I got a very official message from him last month just to inform me of a death in the family – I physically started to SHAKE. In my head, I was ok, not tormented, not surprised, not emotional. But on the outside, I was trembling for about an hour causing my friends to ask if I’m ok. My jaw, my arms, my legs, I looked like someone dumped me naked in the snow! How amazing are our bodies! If you know how to read it right, you know it’s not you missing them. It’s your body and mind frightened and telling you to stay away.

Thanks again Irena!


Hi Anja
Thanks for sharing your story. I was wondering if you replied back to him offering condolences or stayed the hell away.
Best wishes



Thank you for your kind comment. It means so much to me that this post resonated with you. I got chills when I read your message. Again, I’m no expert in trauma or trauma recovery, but everything I have ever read about trauma describes a trauma release exactly as you described it. The kind of shaking you are describing is a normal, primal response to a stressful situation. In fact, trauma occurs BECAUSE we often get frozen in a trauma bond and literally can’t shake it.

They have done studies which show that animals physically shake to release tension and return to a normal physiological baseline after they have escaped from a predator. Your body is amazing, recognized a stressor, and then was able to LET IT GO through this physiological reaction. This makes me so happy for you. You were able to stay away from someone toxic for long enough to BREAK the cycle, freeze out of the toxic relationship, and when confronted with it again, your body and mind were able to recognize it as a stressor, protect yourself, AND release it. You are amazing.

And doesn’t this all bring new meaning to Taylor Swift’s “shake it off?” 🙂 Thank you so much for sharing this. So much love to you. xo, Irena


Hi Irene
You have no idea how much I identified with your post. Each and ever line. it’s like you were specifically writing about me. Also thanks for addressing the part that trauma bonds don’t understand time and place. I thought I was the only crazy person on this planet who is unable to get over this guy though it’s been 3 yes (yes 3 yes) since he dumped me and kept throwing crumbs after that. Now I get it – TRAUMA BOND.
A big thank you to you and lots of love and best wishes.
Hi Natasha
Only you can write a book (a humongous task) and still make sure that all your sister’s all over the world are taken care off. I am speechless at your generosity, love and concern for all of us.
As always loads of love


Hi Meg,

Thank you so much for your comment. It means so much to me that this was helpful to you in any way. When break ups happen, especially in trauma bonding, there are so many layers underneath the feelings that come with the break up. It’s hard to even start to grieve the break up when there may be so much other history behind the feelings that are triggered (during the relationship and after the break up). All those feelings don’t come with a sense of time, and we can get really confused and believing that there must be something incredibly romantic or star crossed about our ex-partners, because we’re continuing to feel the reverberations of these feelings as time wears on. Or that there must be something wrong with us for feeling this way. There is not. Your body and heart need time to recalibrate it all. Never feel ashamed. I hoped that this post would spread compassion toward these kinds of feelings, so that we can stop feeling awful about ourselves and start paying attention to our needs, at long last . You are definitely not crazy and you are never alone. Thank you for sharing and for being part of this community. Much love to you. xo, Irena


Thank you Irene. This means a lot to me. I read your message twice and will continue doing that as a reminder :)…….love and best wishes Meg


I love you so much ?♥️? thanks Meg. I can’t put into words how much I appreciate you and your love. xox


I had a breakup years ago(5) and we are still in and out of each other’s lives but the anxiety it causes me is so overwhelming. Why do I torture myself? I know I’m being mistreated. I read this about trauma bonding and oh my god!! Everything you say is exactly what I’ve been going through. And my body has definitely let me know with a gall stone and back problems and weight gain, insomnia.. you name it. I never connected it before but now that I read this I know I need to get help and get myself back to me again!! Thank you for an amazing article!!
Sincerely, Christine
P.S… I love every article on here!!!! Best advice ever!


Hi Christine! 🙂 I’m so glad that you loved this post as much as I do.

Thank you for taking the time to share and for being a part of this tribe 🙂 All my love to you sister. xox


I went through my first toxic relationship in 2014-15. I was 18 years old and it took me years to get over. After thinking that because I had already been through it, I would be able to see it coming the next time, and stay away. About 8 months ago, it happened again with someone else. I am out now, and doing much better. I can’t tell you how much these articles have helped, and how much they have led me down deeper paths that I had no idea I needed to address.

It still amazes me that there was so much information available on these kinds of people/relationships/bonds. Sometimes I wish I could go back and give a binder full of these articles to my 19 year old self. Most of the time I’m glad because I know I can handle whatever comes my way.

Thank you Irena, this article sunk really deep into me, in the best way. And thank you to Natasha and all of the lovely commenters on this page, I read each and every one of them. xox.



I’m so glad that you love this post as much as I do. Thank you for sharing, for being here, and for being a part of this tribe. All my love to you. xoxo


I was diagnosed with C-PTSD last year after a very abusive relationship that lasted 4 years. My ex was not only physically abusive, but mentally, emotionally and sexually as well. The sexual abuse started a month into our relationship when he raped me during an argument. A year later my ex held me in a friend’s apartment and beat me up over the course of two hours. In the middle of the assault he raped me again. This was our pattern for four years. Your article brought me some peace of mind and understanding of what my body is going through. I feel more prepared to deal with my trauma. Thank you so much.


Hi Alesha,

Thank you so much for your comment. I am honored to know that this post helped you in any way. I am so incredibly sorry to hear about your last relationship. Thank you for sharing your story. You make others feel less alone. You are an incredibly brave person, to not only survive that situation, but to be able to face what happened so that you can grieve, get help, and process it. I can’t imagine what you are going through, but I am so happy to know that you are taking care of yourself. Please know that we are behind you and you are never alone. It takes immensely powerful courage to start paying attention to your body, to recognize trauma, to identify triggers, and to get by each day while you are healing. You are an inspiration – please keep going. I know there are good days and bad days, but you make sense, your body makes sense, you are not crazy, you are safe, and you are very loved by us all. xo, Irena


This was a transformative read for me. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for putting it together. The most difficult part for me is the following symptom: an intense desire to inform the person who hurt you about your healing.

I have so much hurt and anger for the past, but also so much pride in even the smallest steps I’ve taken so far, and I want so badly to contact the ex to say all the things I either didn’t have the courage to say before, or hadn’t processed enough to even understand how to say before. Worse still, I discovered more lies and nasty manipulative behaviors AFTER we cut contact, and I have such a strong desire to reach out and let him know I know. Some part of me wants him to know he didn’t get away with it, that I’m not a fool to this specific lie or that one anymore. I KNOW it would do me no good. I KNOW any contact I’ve ever had with him has ended in turmoil and left me gravely dissatisfied and hurt all over again. But that desire is still there. I suppose a part of me still seeks that validation? Or seeks some kind of “Aha, I’ve shown you!” moment?

Either way, I KNOW it’s a terrible idea. I KNOW he isn’t worth any attention from me, positive or negative, but that desire is so strong. When I’ve broken up from other, healthy relationships, I never had the desire to reach out to them about my healing. So this is definitely unique to the “trauma bonding” you describe. Your article is correct, I think I just want to “place” that energy somewhere, and I feel it’s his burden to bear. Any time I feel the urge, I will remember your words. It would only do more damage.

It’s good to know I’m not alone. Thank you.



I’m so glad that you got as much value from this post as I did. That is the most difficult part for me too. Also, the realization that a knife will never be a band-aid. You are extremely self-aware and yes, you want him to know that you know. It’s normal but with toxic people, never is it worth reaching out. You know that <3

You are incredible and you are never, ever alone. Thank you for being you and for being a part of this tribe. xo


This article was so well written, thank you for sharing it.

I relate to a lot of these and definitely feel that me and my ex have a trauma bond.

The problem is I recognize I hurt him a lot too. I was toxic too. I really want to apologize for the hurtful things I said throughout the course of the relationship, some of which he says have really hurt him.

I broke up with him a month ago during a fight on messenger and I just feel awful about the way things ended. The way our last date ended was really sad (I felt uncomfortable and needed some air after he brought up a difficult topic in his car, he was meant to drive me home but I ended up walking over 3 miles home instead because I just needed some space to process and breathe and not get put on the spot with the conversation he had tried to raise). I never thought that would be the last time I saw him, but then he started such a hurtful fight on messenger. I told him how much the things he said were hurting me, to the extent I couldn’t even taste food anymore and was getting anxiety over the notification sound going off, but he wouldn’t stop he just said worse things and continued for hours. When it ended it was night time and as he later justified: “I wanted to conversation to end but I also wanted you to know I was hurt.” So he decided to exit the conversation by saying: “I am still extremely upset with you. I don’t trust you or your words. I don’t want to talk to you. I don’t like you.” I was devastated and told him so repeatedly for an hour, begging for him to speak to me on the phone but he wouldn’t. He wanted to leave me in that state of misery. His apologies in the days to follow didn’t take full responsibility, and he didn’t seem to comprehend the severity of what he had done, deflecting by bringing up how things i have said in the past have hurt him too.

The way we broke up was traumatic for me and also for him, I think… I feel a lot of guilt for hurting him. I didn’t mean to break up over messenger, but I just was so anxious over the thought of seeing him again and didn’t see the point… I didn’t want to deal with his accusations anymore and I felt like he would try to convince me to get back together but after what he had said I didn’t want to because I don’t understand how anybody could treat someone they loved the way he treated me that night… love is respect. Love is caring about someone’s wellbeing. I had made my pain so obvious to him, made myself so vulnerable, but he hadn’t stopped sending awful messages. I posted some of the messages online anonymously and strangers told me it was abuse.
Finally I believed him when he said he thinks he doesn’t have empathy (the first time he said that was over a year prior to this… d’oh! I hadn’t understood that that was even possible back then, it was incomprehensible to me at the time he first brought it up. Lesson learned)

I have thought a few times to reach out and ask if he would like to meet for a no-expectations talk so we can both get some more closure (and possibly establish that we may get back together one day in the future if we both do the required self-work and therapy… the thought of completely closing the door to us ever getting back together induces so much panic and anxiety in me and I would much rather leave the door open in case I make a mistake and one day realise he was the one after all. Plus I do want him to get better and feel that if we did have this conversation maybe he would be more motivated to stick with therapy)

I even have the message scripted out, but every time I go to actually type it out and send it to him it’s like my entire body just screams no… this awful panicky “heated” feeling comes over me and I can feel my heartbeat until I erase the message and put the phone down.

But I still really want to apologize, so doing nothing doesn’t feel right either. I remain stuck in limbo, ruminating and obsessing, going from feeling guilty and missing him to anger and frustration, back and forth, depending on what I am remembering and re-reading.

The fact that I was toxic too in some of the things I said during the relationship makes it much more confusing because there’s thoughts in my head like that if I had been better he probably never would have gotten triggered in the first place. Our worst fights were always when he felt insecure and like I was backing away from the relationship. If I had communicated more kindly and clearly and thoughtfully like I will strive to in the future his outbursts probably wouldn’t have happened.

There is the fear that maybe I was the problem. And that maybe I will never be able to find anybody as good. That maybe I should have tried harder to make it work, that if we both got professional help to work on our issues things could work out.

Because he treated me very well, except for when we would fight. And he would always apologize afterwards. But that doesn’t take back the hours spent in misery and anxiety, sometimes to the extent I had diarrhoea.

I just feel like knowing what i know now, going back to the start with a fresh slate things might have been able to work out differently. And that’s hard.

The thought of him moving on and replacing me and sleeping with somebody else is really hard too.

I don’t know if he’s in pain right now – maybe he’s moved on and doesn’t even think of me – but the thought of him devastated about our breakup and blaming himself and hating himself for the things he said in our fight is really hard to handle. That’s what makes me want to reach out most of all.

But who knows, maybe he doesn’t even want to hear from me. Maybe hearing from me would just set back his own healing rather than help at this stage.


Hello Irena,
I so relate to what you are saying here. I am a bit confused though and wondering if you could offer some insight. It has been 12 years since I broke up with ex whom I felt I was in an unhealthy relationship with, and am now wondering if perhaps the reason I still think of him is because it was a trauma bond. The only thing is, he wasn’t abusive. I broke up with him because I felt abandoned when he went out with his friends and had his own life and didn’t know how to recognize or communicate my feelings. We both had complicated childhoods. Meantime, I am married to someone else, but I still dream regularly about this other person. He made me feel safe, not unsafe. Can it be a trauma bond, with myself being the one resistant to connection, even though I desperately wanted it? And how can I allow myself to feel safe with myself? Especially on the days when I all I want is to rest my head on his shoulder. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!


Hi Rose,

Thank you so much for reading and for being a part of this community. Please know that you are very much not alone in your experience with regard to an ex from long ago. It’s not usually talked about, but many people enter subsequent relationships and never feel completely happy or “whole” because they long for a former partner. And there is a lot of misery in the world based on that, because these intimate feelings that you have certainly feel like the God’s honest truth — making many people feel like a “fraud” in their current relationship.

I don’t think that a relationship has to be anything close to abusive in order to be the center of a trauma bond. What stood out to me in your comment is that you remember feeling abandoned. I believe that is key here. We ALL unconsciously seek partners that remind us of people in our past, especially our primary caregivers. And when we find them, we tend to cling on because they do feel familiar and safe. It’s counter intuitive, but a person can feel like “home” even though that person also makes you feel abandoned and alone, if you didn’t feel seen, heard, or cared for in your childhood home. I have the impression that you believe that your relationship with your ex ended because you overreacted on your feelings of feeling abandoned and not cared for.

I don’t think that’s the case at all. I think that you acted on your inner wisdom which said “NO MORE” even though you you were probably crazy for the guy at the time. This is a very powerful and protective part of you that many people do not hear. One aspect of trauma is our compulsion to repeat the trauma (to seek partners that remind us of our past) so that we can at long last, make right what went wrong long ago. There is a very powerful need to find someone who feels like home and then grit your teeth and bear what you know how to bear well until such time that the relationship is TRANSFORMED. And the person who feels like home does see us, hear us, stand by us, and believe in us for the precious human we all are. To finally heal that part of us that should have felt that way in our childhoods, but perhaps never or only inconsistently did.

This part of us doesn’t fall away when we are in a new relationship. It doesn’t fall away no matter how many years pass by. Time is no match for trauma. The BEAUTIFUL part of your story (and I know you may disagree with me here) is that you did NOT fall into a cycle of praying, hoping, and staying with someone who made you feel abandoned and alone, waiting for them to change. Many people are trapped in this cycle for their entire lifetimes. You said NO MORE and you moved on with your life. Trust the decision that you made long ago. You know what feeling abandoned feels like, and there’s no such thing as a person who makes you feel moderately or manageably abandonded or alone.

Search the website for dreaming about your ex – Natasha has a great post about that. These dreams and feelings you have about your ex are a gift to you. And I’m willing to bet they don’t have anything to do with your ex at all. They are indications that a hurt part of you still feels hurt. It is still seeking acceptance, love, and comfort. Our caregivers were supposed to provide us with unconditional love when we were children. It’s very hard and it is very much a big deal to heal from a situation when you were given conditional love. I believe you have connected the fulfillment of these needs to the image and body of your ex. This is normal. And I understand it can make you crazy. But he is not the comfort you are seeking. He could not provide it for you then, and he likely cannot provide it for you now.

Try something for me. Whenever you think of him, whenever you dream of him: talk to yourself. Ask yourself what you need in the moment? What you want? What would feel good? What would taste good? Your thoughts about this person are YOU calling yourself back to YOU. This is HARD, but you can do it. The process is slow, but you will eventually start to feel better. You will eventually feel less longing for him. You will see the longing for what it is: a longing for you to no longer abandon yourself.

Much love to you.



Thank you so much, Irena, for your thoughtful and helpful response! You definitely hit the nail on the head for the reason I left. Though without knowledge of my own patterns, I sadly still didn’t then learn to navigate toward a connected relationship. But, as you say, at least I am recognizing how I have abandoned myself now and not after an entire lifetime! I thank you also for picking up on my confusion about the end of my relationship.  I think my hang up was on the fact that I wondered about how I handled my feelings—  not necessarily where to place the blame or if I could have contained my fear, but more how I would have experienced the connection differently (and more fully) had I allowed myself to get to curious about the triggers, and witnessed, possibly shifted, my tendency to withdrawal— had I understood the importance of my feelings — had I remained open to the possibility that I might love someone without fear of losing them, and that I might deserve being loved in return. And then decided if it was in my best interests to stay or leave the relationship. Incidentally, through phone conversation with ex years ago (I reached out after losing someone close to me), I miraculously, and unexpectedly, was met with the validation, acceptance and the transformation you described. The soul opening comfort and healing from another was still not enough to fill the void, however, or reach me entirely, and never will be, as I am learning— when I don’t offer the same to myself.  In any case, I REALLY APPRECIATE you taking the time to share your useful insights…Your words definitely catapulted me into a new level of self awareness, helping me understand where “home” really is. Which seems a simple concept, yet has eluded me until now. Thank you!!!


I have a ton of respect for everyone who has commented on here and the author. I’m an attorney that deals regularly with family law, and for the life of me I couldn’t understand why people stayed in abusive relationships or were so haunted by their endings. Well it took me being on the co-dependent side of an abusive relationship to even begin to comprehend. I was stabbed, assaulted, constantly put down until I had almost no self-esteem. It nearly ruined my career, I abandoned family and friends, and started having panic attacks for the first time in my life. It has been months since contact and I am still barely breathing. Every day seems to get more and more difficult. I truly wish all of you the best with your recovery, because this is no joke.


There is nothing I could write that would ever come close to expressing how thankful I am for your support, your strength amidst the most lonely kind of pain, and your willingness to share. Thank you for existing. I’m glad that you enjoyed this article as much as I do.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *