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How Narcissists Get You Addicted To Them

“Exploitive relationships create betrayal bonds. These occur when a victim bonds with someone who is destructive to him or her. Thus the hostage becomes the champion of the hostage taker, the incest victim covers for the parent and the exploited employee fails to expose the wrongdoing of the boss.”

Dr. Patrick Carnes“Why Didn’t They Just Leave?”This is a question that makes many victims of abuse cringe and for good reason. Even after years of research about the effects of trauma and abuse and the fact that abuse victims often go back to their abusers an average of seven times before they finally leave, society still does not seem to understand the powerful effects of trauma bonding and intermittent reinforcement in an abusive relationship.

“Trauma bonding is evidenced in any relationship which the connection defies logic and is very hard to break. The components necessary for a trauma bond to form are a power differential, intermittent good and bad treatment, {as well as} high arousal and bonding periods.”

Dr.Logan (2018)

Trauma Bonding

Trauma bonding is a bond that develops when two people undergo intense, risky emotional experiences together. In the context of an abusive relationship, this bond is strengthened due to the heightened intimacy and danger.

Similar to the way Stockholm Syndrome manifests, the abuse victim bonds with his or her abuser as both the source of terror and comfort in an attempt to survive the tumultuous relationship. As a result, abuse victims feel a misplaced, unshakeable sense of loyalty and devotion to their abusers, which to an outsider may appear nonsensical.

As Dr. Patrick writes in his book, The Betrayal Bond, trauma bonding is especially fierce in situations where there are repetitive cycles of abuse, a desire to rescue the abuser, as well as the presence of both seduction and betrayal. He writes:

“Those standing outside see the obvious. All these relationships are about some insane loyalty or attachment. They share exploitation, fear,and danger. They also have elements of kindness, nobility,and righteousness. These are all people who stay involved or wish to stay involved with people who betray them. Emotional pain, severe consequences and even the prospect of death do not stop their caring or commitment. Clinicians call this traumatic bonding. This means that the victims have a certain dysfunctional attachment that occurs in the presence of danger, shame or exploitation. There often is seduction, deception or betrayal. There is always some form of danger or risk.”

Dr.Patrick “The Betrayal Bond


The Role of Intermittent Reinforcement in Trauma Bonding

Intermittent reinforcement (in the context of psychological abuse) is a pattern of cruel, callous treatment mixed in with random bursts of affection. The abuser hands out rewards such as affection, a compliment, or gifts sporadically and unpredictably throughout the abuse cycle.

Think of the violent husband who gives his wife flowers after assaulting her or the kind words an abusive mother gives to her child after a particularly harsh silent treatment. Intermittent reinforcement causes the victim to perpetually seek the abuser’s approval while settling for the crumbs of their occasional positive behavior, in the hopes that the abuser will return to the honeymoon phase of the relationship.

Like a gambler at a slot machine, victims are unwittingly “hooked” to play the game for a potential win, despite the massive losses. This manipulation tactic also causes us to perceive their rare positive behaviors in an amplified manner. Dr. Carver describes this as the “small kindness perception”.

“In threatening and survival situations, we look for evidence of hope a small sign that the situation may improve. When an abuser/controller shows the victim some small kindness, even though it is to the abusers benefit as well, the victim interprets that small kindness as a positive trait of the captorIn relationships with abusers, a birthday card, a gift (usually provided after a period of abuse), or a special treat are interpreted as not only positive, but evidence that the abuser is not all bad and may at some time correct his/her behavior. Abusers and controllers are often given positive credit for not abusing their partner, when the partner would have normally been subjected to verbal or physical abuse in a certain situation.”

Dr.Carver “Love and Stockholm Syndrome

The Biochemical Element

As I discuss more in-depth in my books on narcissistic abuse, there is also a biochemical addiction involved when it comes to intermittent reinforcement and trauma bonding. As Helen Fisher (2016) explores, love activates the same areas of the brain responsible for cocaine addiction. In adversity-ridden relationships, the effects of biochemical addiction can be even more powerful. When oxytocin, serotonin, dopamine, cortisol, and adrenaline are involved, the abusive nature of the relationship can actually strengthen, rather than dampen, the bond of the relationship in the brain.

For example, dopamine is a neurotransmitter that plays a key role in the pleasure center of our brains. It creates reward circuits and generates associations in our brain which link our romantic partners with pleasure and even survival.

The catch? Dopamine flows more readily in the brain when there is an intermittent reinforcement schedule of affection and attention, rather than a consistent one (Carnell, 2012). The hot and cold behaviors of a toxic relationship actually exacerbate our dangerous attachment to our abusers rather than deterring them – creating an addiction that is not unlike drug addiction. This is just one of the ways the brain is affected by abuse, so imagine how difficult it can be for a traumatized individual to break the bond.

Signs of a Trauma Bond

You might be suffering from a trauma bond if you exhibit the following behaviors:

  • You know they are abusive and manipulative, but you can’t seem to let go.
  • You ruminate over the incidents of abuse, engage in self-blame, and the abuser becomes the sole arbiter of your self-esteem and self-worth.
  • You walk on eggshells trying to please your abuser, even though they give you little in return except for crumbs of affection and more pain.
  • You feel addicted to them without understanding why. You “need” their validation and approval, looking to them as the source of comfort after incidents of abuse. This is evidence of a strong biochemical and psychological attachment to them.
  • You defend your abuser and keep their transgressions a secret. You might refuse to press charges against your abuser or defend them against family members or friends who try to tell you that they are toxic.
  • You may even present your relationship as a happy one to the public eye, attempting to minimize their abusive behavior and romanticizing and exaggerating any positive behaviors they dole out occasionally.
  • Even when you attempt to leave the abuser, you give into the abuser’s faux remorse, crocodile tears, and claims to change for the future. The pattern of abuse and its cycle may be evident, but you hold onto the false hope that things can get better.
  • You develop self-sabotaging behaviors and might engage in some form of self-harm or addiction to dissociate from the pain of the abuse and the acute sense of shame caused by the abuse.
  • You are willing to lower your standards time and time again for this toxic person, accepting what you previously believed was unacceptable.
  • You change your own behaviors, appearance, and/or personality in an attempt to meet the abuser’s moving goal posts, although the abuser rarely changes their own behavior to please you.

The Big Picture

If you are experiencing a trauma bond with an emotional or physical abuser, the first step is awareness. Know that it is the addictive nature of the trauma bond and the effects of intermittent reinforcement which contribute to the source of your bond, not the merits of the abuser or the relationship itself.

This will help you to distance yourself from seeing your relationship as a “special” one just in need of more of your time, energy, or patience. Malignant narcissistic abusers follow hardwired behaviors and will not change for you or anyone else. Get distance from your abuser, even if you feel you cannot leave yet. Work with a trauma-informed counselor to process the trauma, examine the cycle of abuse, reconnect with the reality of the abusive relationship, and place responsibility where it truly belongs.

The abuse you endured was not your fault and neither was the trauma bond that formed. You deserve a life free of abuse and mistreatment. You deserve healthy relationships and friendships which nourish you, not deplete and exploit you. You deserve to break the bonds which tether you to your abuser.

Resource: PsychCentral – Narcissists Use Trauma Bonding and Intermittent Reinforcement to Get You Addicted to Them

Setting Healthy Boundaries

I’ve always been the type of person who loves helping others. Many times, this even meant saying yes to someone when I really wanted to say no. This meant pleasing too many people and not maintaining healthy boundaries.

Has that happened to you, too? People-pleasing is an all too familiar occurrence in life. We cross our own boundaries and wind up sacrificing our mental and emotional well-being.

But having healthy boundaries in all aspects of our lives is vital to our relationships – not just others around us, but also with ourselves. What do healthy boundaries look like and how can you learn to say no?

What healthy boundaries look like 

Boundaries come in several forms – physical and emotional are just two of them. Physical boundaries can simply mean that you don’t want someone touching, hugging or kissing you. As a child, maybe you didn’t like being “forced” to hug someone. That’s a physical boundary. Even as adults, we set our own rules within relationships. Maybe you don’t like shaking someone’s hand when meeting them. And that’s okay.

Emotional boundaries mean that you and you alone are in control of your own thoughts and feelings. Our abusers are so used to telling us how to act, think and feel. When we are out of our situations, we can set our own rules and let others know that our thoughts and feelings are our own.

Within our interpersonal relationships, we set boundaries to tell others what we do and do not want in these relationships. It is like having an invisible line that you set that others cannot cross. It’s creating a life for yourself that is free from stress, abuse and conflict.

Having healthy boundaries means setting limits. It’s what you will and won’t allow. Only you can decide that, though. It will take time to voice your wants and needs. 

When that time comes, healthy boundaries may look like this:

  • You communicate your wants and needs clearly.
  • You know your limits, both physically and emotionally, and will voice that when needed.
  • You ask for help when needed.
  • You stand up for your values and beliefs, and don’t back down just to keep the peace.
  • You have a healthy respect for yourself.

How you can learn to say no

Learning to say no is perhaps one of the toughest things for domestic violence survivors to do. Survivors are so used to saying yes, even when we mean no. We give in. We relent because we just don’t have the energy to fight anymore. We just want peace.

“I realized I was afraid of saying no because my biggest fear is rejection. I was afraid that every time I did this, I would disappoint someone, make them angry, hurt their feelings, or appear unkind or rude,” stated a Tiny Buddha article. This quote truly hit deep because this was me exactly! Abusers know this about us and exploit that to the point of breaking us down to get us to say yes when all we want is to say no.

Abusers never understand that “no” is a complete sentence. They are never satisfied with that. They always want explanations from us. Over time, we learn that we always need to explain ourselves whenever we say no to someone. We can say no without having to explain!

PsychCentral article gives the following tips to help you learn how to say no:

  • Keep your response simple.
  • Buy yourself some time.
  • Consider a compromise.
  • Separate refusal from rejection.
  • Don’t feel guilty for saying no to your children.
  • Be true to yourself.

The above tips will help when saying no to someone. Keep in mind that you are not asking for permission – you are merely letting that person know that you are not able to commit. Also, compromising is only if you DO want to say yes, but have a time limit on your availability. Above all, the tip of being true to yourself is vital – you need to remember who you are and what you want in life, otherwise, you run the risk of losing your identity to those around you.

Why it’s healthy to set limits

For domestic violence survivors, setting boundaries of any kind can be very difficult. We are so used to bowing to our abuser’s wishes out of fear of retaliation. We give in to keep the peace. But in our healing journeys, it is imperative that we remind ourselves that we have value and that our thoughts and feelings matter. Learning to respect our own value in our healing journeys will take time. We were conditioned to believe that we hold no value and that we don’t matter. But now, we are gaining confidence, self-respect, self-reliance, and self-esteem – all because we are setting limits and healthy boundaries.

Setting limits is healthy because, little by little, we will gain our power back. We will begin to see that we have value and we matter. It’s healthy because we not only let others know what we will and will not accept, we also let ourselves know this. Survivors reaffirm within our hearts that we will not accept the type of behavior again that we received when we were with the abusers. We have value. We matter.

If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, there is help. You can visit the Break the Silence Against Domestic Violence website at www.breakthesilencedv.org or chat with one of our support line advocates at 855-287-1777.

What Men Need to Know When Dating a Survivor of Domestic Violence

By: Clint Schiller

Dating a Survivor of Domestic Abuse can be frustrating, difficult, irritating, complexing, and confusing; if you try and fix them!

Connection, love

  • PATIENCE – is the first key attribute to have when dating a domestic violence survivor. They are usually not very willing to let you in.
  • UNDERSTANDING – not about what they have been through (this helps) but the kind that you know they have things they are going to need to work through in their own time.
  • RESPECT – Some things that may not seem very big of a deal in a normal relationship may be a huge trigger for them. Don’t disregard it.
  • YOUR MINDSET – Long-term Outlook- They may never fully get over their domestic violence incident.
  • STRONG – Not Physically, but Mentally, Emotionally, and physiologically. You cannot be faint of heart!
  • STABLE – You need to be consistent with your actions, words, behavior, and affection with them.
  • CARING – Sometimes words are not what they need. A Hug, kiss on the cheek, rub on back, holding their hand, wink, or just being nearby is all they need.
  • GOOD LISTENER – Make Eye contact, hold their hand, repeat back what they said. Acknowledge what they may be feeling or thinking.
  • APOLOGETIC – You are going to mess up when dating someone who has been through DV. If you haven’t been through it, you will never truly grasp the entire phenomenon of being a victim of DV!

The Man I Loved Abused Me During My Pregnancy

I thought he loved me. Thought I had met the love of my life. I was wrong. The man I loved abused me during my pregnancy, and it didn’t stop there. Looking back, I understand how I fell under his spell and why it took so long for me to leave.

As a teen, I never really felt loved

My mom and dad separated when I was only six years old, and I went to live with my mom. When I was 11 years old, my dad moved away and didn’t tell me. Someone informed my mom of his move, and the feeling of abandonment affected me for years.

I started giving the love I had for my father away to any guy I got into a relationship with, and none of those relationships worked out. They verbally abused me and told me that I love too hard or that I am clingy. I always brushed it off by saying, “God is love,” for I believe so much in God. This cycle went on for years.

Connection, love

Finding Connection

When I was 24 years old, I met a guy on a dating site. He appeared to be genuine, different than the others. We even connected through our stories of absentee fathers.

However, he wasn’t working; he said he was selling a few items at his home. That didn’t bother me because I was also out of work. I just wanted to be loved purely and genuinely.

Thick As Thieves

A mere two months into the relationship, I became pregnant. To me, this was a miracle because doctors told me that my chance of having children was small.
Even without an income, we hung in there. I started to hustle with him. That was when he began to change.

In another argument, he hit me so much that I started to shake uncontrollably. I didn’t know what was going on until we reached the hospital. They had to try to calm me down because I was pregnant. I had to face the truth. The man I loved was abusing me during my pregnancy.

Enough Is Enough

The last time he hit me, I saw nothing but blackness and fell to the floor. My mom started crying and asked why I was coping with all the abuse.

My answer was that I was hoping he would change, but he never did. I got hit in the face, and my nose almost broke. He stabbed my finger and bucked my head, and I did nothing except pray and fast.

I am in nursing school now. He left, and I’m holding on to God, because through it all, it was by his mercy and strength that I’m alive and here with my daughter.

Donate to BTSADV today and help support survivors on their healing journey.

Share your story and Break Your Silence!

Need DV resources? Call the BTSADV Support Line 1-855-BTS-1777

National Mental Health Awareness Month

Mental Health Awareness

The stigma of mental illness and conversations around mental health awareness makes it difficult for those impacted to live their lives and receive help. This stigma seen in a negative light by much of society and can hinder someone’s healing journey.

This is why the month of May shines a spotlight on Mental Health Awareness. We all deal with issues of mental health but survivors and victims of domestic violence have unique mental health needs, as well as barriers preventing us from reaching out for support.

What is mental health?

According to MentalHealth.gov, mental health is comprised of “our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices.”

Why is it so important?

A person’s mental health is important because it is directly connected to our physical wellbeing. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention states, “Mental illness, especially depression, increases the risk for many types of physical health problems, particularly long-lasting conditions like stroke, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.” Simply put, if our mental health is in a downward spiral, our physical health will also be impacted.

How does domestic violence affect mental health?

We, as victims and survivors, dealt with our abusers affecting our psyche at every turn. Abusers would use tactic upon tactic to afflict on us great emotional, psychological, and mental pain. In turn, that affected how we thought about ourselves and the world around us. We recoiled in emotional and physical pain, we hid from ourselves and others. We pulled back from our once great social circle and became recluse out of fear.

So it stands to reason that we place the utmost importance on our mental health in our healing journeys. Survivors were conditioned to believe that anything we did for ourselves was selfish. So, in our healing journeys, we want to finally make time for ourselves – to finally say, “We matter and we will take care of ourselves mentally and physically.” No longer do we step aside for others and place ourselves last. We say, “Now is our time. Now is the time we put our mental health first.”

For me, I was a strong, confident, successful, happy person before him. But with him, I became confused, sad, anxious, fearful, and felt like I was a failure. In my healing journey, I have placed more importance on my mental health. It takes precedence. I will no longer sacrifice my emotional and physical well-being for anything (or anyone) else.

Medline Plus lists several additional reasons why mental health is important, including:

  • It helps us cope with life’s daily stressors,
  • Helps us maintain positive, healthy relationships with others, and
  • Enables us to be more productive at work.

End the stigma

For so long, society has swept mental health issues under the rug. But recently, people are starting to speak out. Mental health has become a hot topic for discussion and is being talked about more and more every day.

What do we do as a society to help?

First, we need to end the stigma that struggling with mental health issues is a bad thing. It’s not. It takes great courage to admit that you are struggling and even more courage to seek help. I was conditioned by society to believe the depression I was experiencing classified me as unstable and crazy, and by seeking help, I was an unfit mother. These sigma’s made me feel weak for seeking help. In reality, the abuse I endured caused my mental health issues.

According to Psychology Today, spotlighting mental health awareness during the month of May each year is vital to helping end the stigma. The National Alliance on Mental Illness also fights to bring awareness to mental health with their “You are not alone” campaign, stating, “Now more than ever before, it is important for the mental health community to come together and show the world that no one should ever feel alone.”

If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, there is help. You can visit the Break the Silence Against Domestic Violence website at www.breakthesilencedv.org or chat with one of our helpline advocates at 855-287-1777.

Donate to BTSADV Here.

The Mental in Me…

The mental in me before you were unrecognizable. It was there but it was peaceful. The mental before you amassed yet to be challenged by such life changes of emotions and bodily damage.

The mental in me before you were humble and filled with life.

The mental in me when I met you believed these new feelings were real. The mental in me with you made me feel loved with the false presentation of what love really is. The mental in me during you showed me your true disposition and intentions. The mental in me prevailed disturbed by your behavior of the abuse in which you demonstrated what your love is.

The mental in me was enticed by long nights, tears of confusion, and overthinking as if I was the problem.

Thank you for showing me what love is not. Thank you for the level of thinking I have now to process how I choose people to be in my life. Now I know that not everyone is good for my mental. Now I know that everything someone presents to me is my choice to accept it or let them be. My mental is protected by a higher level of self-awareness.

My mental mattered in times you or anyone else tried to neglect me. My mental health was my biggest key to surviving people like you as I discovered how to heal myself.

My mental today is my biggest flex that I cherish. No matter what happened to me, I mentally and physically strengthened the new healed me. I didn’t break. I didn’t fold. Instead, I grew. I bent, and now my mind is healthier and more flexible because I chose myself when I broke my silence!

Has being a survivor of a detrimental time in your life made you realize how important your state of mind was in your darkest moments?

If so please share with us in the comments below. We would love to hear how you mentally healed from the abusive characteristics that were meant to destroy you.


RESOURCE: *** From the heart of a survivor, that did not know the importance of her state of mind, UNTIL she broke her silence. ***

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