Why are toxic relationships so addictive, and why do people describe it as similar to heroin or drug addiction?

There are mainly two reasons why individuals stay in toxic relationships & even become addicted to them.

First, because of the security, it provides for certain individuals. I know it sounds far off and perhaps difficult to understand for many. However, individuals that come from a difficult childhood and have had a toxic relationship with their caregivers, don’t know an alternative reality.

We are very shaped by our past, which often follows us into the present if we do not work with it.

Therefore, a toxic relationship can offer certain individuals security due to its familiarity. A person who has not dealt with their past can feel unsecured in a healthy relationship and can therefore seek something that he/she knows (unconsciously).

Another reason why a person would stay in a toxic relationship is due to codependency. That person can get codependent or even addicted to the other person that he/she does not know how to live her/his life without that person. Codependent relationships before always involved some kind of addiction (alcohol, drugs, gambling &, etc.). However, today there are many codependent relationships without an addiction. Hence the term codependency is becoming much broader.

Why can it be addictive?

Toxic relationships can be addictive due to plain neurology. When we are in love, there are a lot of happy and love hormones activated that are associated with our pleasure and reward system. When we receive that physical touch, the love hormone oxytocin gets released into the bloodstream and gives us a feeling of trust & pleasure. It can even lower our stress hormones.

Even though there is emotional or physical abuse in a relationship, there is also physical contact, affection & love. 

When you are in a toxic relationship you get partial reinforcement of love & affection. Meaning that you do get those feelings of being loved and taken care of in-between the emotional roller-coaster. Partial reinforcement is in fact one of the hardest reinforcements because you get rewarded on and off. It’s kind of like a gambling addiction, there is always a chance that you might win. There is always that chance of affection and love. 

What are some signs you are in a toxic relationship?

Here are the most common signs that you might be in a toxic relationship:

  • You have difficulties making decisions
  • You have difficulty in defining and understanding your own feelings
  • Difficulty expressing yourself in a relationship
  • Need recognition from others before your own recognition
  • Distrust of yourself and low self-esteem
  • You have difficulty setting goals
  • There is a lot of jealousy in the relationship
  •  There is a lot of control in the relationship
  • You experience verbal/physical abuse
  • Willingness to please others rather than saying no (great anxiety and fear of saying no)
  • Fear of rejection or obsession with recognition
  • Too much responsibility for the behavior of others
  • The unpredictability of partners actions
  • Fear of doing something wrong
  • Feelings of belittled

What are some signs of trauma bond?

Trauma bond can happen when your caregiver/partner has abused you, but still cares for you and loves you. What happens, is this becomes learned attachment style. Associating love with abuse becomes a norm, something that you relate to and recognize as customary. Therefore, it can be easy to confuse a trauma bond with actual love. Plus, you share this bond because your caregiver/partner has also been through a trauma. 

See if you recognise yourself in these signs of trauma bond:

·       You justify his/hers abuse by putting the blame on yourself

·       You forgive the abuse because you tell yourself that he/she loves you

·       You want to be there for him/her and try to “fix” him/her

·       You make excuses for his/her behavior by telling yourself that he/she has been through a   lot

·       A trauma binds you together

·       Feelings pressured or controlled

Here are a few signs of emotional abuse, gaslighting, and
narcissistic abuse

Relationship with a narcissist abuse can be very hard to get away from. Narcissistic people are often very charming in the beginning and it is easy to fall for that. They often have this charisma over them. However, their charisma shifts to passive-aggressive behavior in form of criticizing and belittle you. 

Nevertheless, your partner isn’t always emotionally abusing you, in between your partner can act with such kindness and love. Therefore, it can be very confusing to be in this kind of relationship. In addition, when you are in this situation and you want to make things work, it can be easier to focus on the good things. 

After all there are feelings involved and when your partner is treating you good and showing you love, it reinforces your positive feelings towards your partner.

However, you have to be aware of the signs that you might be in a relationship with emotional abuse & gaslighting. Gaslighting means that your partner can make you doubt your own sanity. Phrases that your partner might use can be:

·      You are crazy/sick

·      You are overreacting

·      You are too sensitive

·      You are insecure

·      You are jealous

·      You are making this up it never happen

Why is it so difficult to break free from a trauma bond or
toxic relationship?

There are several reasons why it can be hard to break free from a trauma bond or a toxic relationship. First of all, your caregiver/partner does show you love and affection in between. Plus, you can unconsciously seek out the drama in the relationship because you get addicted to these hormonal rushes. 

Tips for how to break free from the addiction or trauma
bond, how to reparent, inner child work, and inner work?

Being aware that you are in a relationship that is not serving you emotionally or physically is the first step to actually break free. Awareness creates changes. Without awareness, you are going to be stuck, stuck with justifications & excuses to stay. The next step is to detach. You have to work on detaching you from that person. Keep a diary of your well-being over the next days. By writing down your thoughts and feelings, you can slowly start to detach. What happens when you start writing things down, is that it loses a lot of power on you. Because things are always way worse up in your head, then down on a piece of paper. Furthermore, your self-compassion grows with writing. Often in these relationships, your self-worth suffers and that’s why it’s important to work on your self-compassion. 

For online therapy contact me at: [email protected]

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