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Trauma Bonding in Friendships: Recognizing Red Flags and Setting Boundaries for Healthy Connections

Trauma Bonding with friends
Trauma Bonding in Friendships: Recognizing Red Flags and Setting Boundaries for Healthy Connections

Trauma Bonding in Friendships: Recognizing Red Flags and Setting Boundaries for Healthy Connections

 In this episode of Women’s Mental Health Podcast, licensed psychotherapists Randi Owsley, LMSW, and Jessica Bullwinkle, LMFT, guide women through a transformative discussion on trauma bonding with friends. Discover the signs of trauma bonding, how it impacts friendships, and practical strategies for healing and breaking free. Don't miss out on this empowering conversation that will help you navigate healthy relationships and find your path to recovery. 

If you're looking for information on trauma bonding with friends, it's essential to equip yourself with the right coping skills and tools to overcome this challenging situation.  Understand that recovery from trauma bonding takes time, but by establishing healthy boundaries in friendships and seeking professional help, you can begin to manage and heal from this traumatic experience. Find the necessary resources to aid you in your journey towards breaking free from trauma bonds and cultivating healthier, fulfilling relationships. 

Stay tuned for our upcoming podcast episodes, where we will dive deep into important topics surrounding trauma bonding in friendships. We will explore the signs of trauma bonding, helping you identify if you are caught in such a dynamic. Our discussions will delve into the intricate nature of trauma bonds in friendships, discovering the types that exist and the impact they have on our mental health.

We will shine a light on the red flags of trauma bonding, equipping you with the knowledge to navigate these challenging relationships. Join us as we explore how trauma bonding affects friendships and uncover the path to healing.  Additionally, we will examine the difference between trauma bonding and healthy friendships, allowing for a better understanding of what constitutes a supportive and safe relationship. 

Frequently Asked Questions about Trauma Bonding with Friends: 

1. What is trauma bonding with friends?

Trauma bonding with friends refers to a strong emotional connection formed between individuals who have experienced similar traumatic events. This bond is rooted in shared pain and suffering and can be intense, but it can also have negative consequences for mental health and relationships.

2. How can I recognize trauma bonding within my friendships?

Recognizing trauma bonding within friendships involves looking for signs such as excessively relying on one another for emotional support, feeling trapped or unable to set boundaries, and a lack of differentiation between personal experiences/identities. It is important to examine if the friendship is primarily rooted in shared trauma rather than balanced connections.

3. Are trauma bonds healthy for me and my friend?

Trauma bonds are not healthy in the long run. While they may initially provide a sense of understanding and support, they can often enable destructive behaviors and hinder personal growth and healing. It is important to establish healthy boundaries and seek individual healing beyond the shared trauma.

4. Can trauma bonding affect my mental health?

Yes, trauma bonding can significantly impact mental health. It may lead to codependency, where individuals rely on each other for emotional stability, and it can contribute to the development of unhealthy coping mechanisms. Trauma bonding can hinder personal healing and exacerbate mental

5. How can I break the cycle of trauma bonding with my friends?

Breaking the cycle of trauma bonding requires setting boundaries, fostering open and honest communication, and seeking professional help, such as therapy. It is vital to focus on individual healing and growth, as well as building a support system based on mutual respect and shared interests.

6. Can trauma bonding friendships prevent me from healing?

Yes, trauma bonding friendships can hinder personal healing. Sharing trauma experiences without adequately addressing them can perpetuate the cycle of unresolved pain and prevent individuals from moving forward in their healing journey. It is crucial to address and process trauma individually with proper support.

7. Are there any risks in trauma bonding with friends?

There are risks associated with trauma bonding friendships. These include becoming stuck in the past, being triggered repeatedly by the shared trauma, and experiencing emotional dependency that hinders personal growth. It's important to understand these risks and prioritize individual healing beyond the shared trauma.

8. How can I foster healthy friendships alongside trauma bonding?

To foster healthy friendships alongside trauma bonding, it is important to maintain a balance. Focus on individual healing beyond the shared trauma, establish boundaries, and cultivate connections based on shared interests and values. Seek support from friends who prioritize personal growth and offer mutual support.

9. Is it possible to overcome trauma bonding with friends?

Yes, it is possible to overcome trauma bonding with friends. It requires individual effort and working towards healing and personal growth beyond the shared trauma. Seeking therapy or support from professionals can provide guidance and strategies to break free from destructive patterns.

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Trauma Bonding in Friendships: Recognizing Red Flags and Setting Boundaries for Healthy Connections

Randi: 0:14

Welcome to the Women's Mental Health Podcast with Randi and Jess. We're two licensed psychotherapists and we talk about mental health, well being, and strategies for coping, and how it's all normal.Jess: 0:25

Today we're delving into a subject that many of us can relate to, trauma bonding with ourRandi: 0:29

friends. As women, we often find deep connections with friends who've shared similar traumas. These bonds can both be supportive and complex.Jess: 0:39

We'll explore how to navigate them while prioritizing our mental health and self care so that we can heal through ourRandi: 0:45

shared pain. Find us and more resources on womensmentalhealthpodcast. comJess: 0:50

Also, we want to note that the true meaning of trauma bonding, we talked about it in our last episode, really is with the abuser, but because of social media and TikTok, we're saying, oh, we're friends because of a trauma bond.Randi: 1:03

So this is not a technical term, but this is more of like a social media term that we have trauma bonded with our friends or our co workers or our classmates over shared experiences. Ugh.Jess: 1:16

Grad school. Oh my God. Yes. Grad school. Have you ever hadRandi: 1:21

these thoughts? What is trauma bonding when it comes to my friends? How can IJess: 1:26

recognize trauma bonding within my friendships? AreRandi: 1:29

trauma bonds healthy for me and my friends?Jess: 1:32

Can trauma bonding affect myRandi: 1:33

mental health? How can I break the cycle of trauma bonding withJess: 1:37

friends? Can trauma bonding friendships prevent me fromRandi: 1:40

healing? Are there risks in trauma bonding with friends?Jess: 1:44

How can I foster healthy relationships alongside trauma bonding?Randi: 1:49

where can I find additional support when dealing with trauma bonding?Jess: 1:53

so let's first unpack what trauma bonding is when we're talking about it with our friends. It is about forming strong connections through shared pain, often resulting from similar traumatic experiences like we were talking about a fewRandi: 2:06

seconds ago. And it creates an intense bond due to the mutual understanding of the things that you've gone through and the empathy that we share with our friends. Friends who have been through similar struggles. Like I was just joking with one of my friends because she just finished nursing school and she developed these really close friendships and I said, you trauma bonded with them? And she said, yeah, because it was proximity. They're in the same place, same time, and they're going through a really heavy load that other people aren't experiencing right now.Jess: 2:36

And I see it a lot with new moms who are in support groups with other new moms who are suffering with postpartum. Yeah. And so they're all trauma bonding because they all have postpartum. They're all new moms. They're struggling. You have aRandi: 2:50

shared experience. A shared experience. But it's important to understand that there's positive aspects to this, but also there can be pitfalls to it. Absolutely.Jess: 2:59

I see a lot of the pitfalls. So while we're looking at these connections, they're very valuable, but sometimes they can really blur the boundaries.Randi: 3:08

And it's important to recognize when a bond becomes unhealthy. And so that's why we're going to share some of our insights here and what we've Seen as therapists, It'sJess: 3:18

important to set clear boundaries and identify the signs of codependency. to prevent these bonds from becoming. Detrimental to our mental healthRandi: 3:26

and so boundaries are really hard to learn and maintain. And so listen to our episode on boundaries and season one, it's episode six. And you can delve into that and that will really help you outline how to set healthy boundariesJess: 3:42

I don't do couples therapy. And the reason I don't do couples therapy was because I would be in these situations where I would listen to this husband and this wife and she'd be mad because he didn't take out the trash and they'd be fighting over it. I'd get in the car and I'd come home to my husband and I'd be mad about the trash, right? And that wasn't mine to own, So I recognized that wasn't healthy for me or my relationship. And so that is something I changed. I see the same thing happening in some of these supportRandi: 4:11

groups, right? Cause you're talking about negative things or maybe something that it's upsetting you that you're going through. And then you project that on to the person or your situation in life. So if it's like negative, negative, negative, and you're hearing this all the time, A lot of times that can leak into your other relationships and other aspects of your life if you don't have boundaries or a clear understanding of where you stand in your other relationships.Jess: 4:39

The other thing I see too, Randy, is that people will minimize their feelings because we're comparing it to somebody else. They're much worse, so I should be okay. You are exactly where you are. you can't compare yourself to somebody else good or bad, you know It's that whole comparison is a thief of joy Well, it also takes away from what you're currently goingRandi: 5:00

through, right? So this can really impact our mental health and let's talk about that because like we said, it's a double edged sword While it can offer support It is so important to ensure that this connection doesn't endJess: 5:21

and work with a professional to help you through this. So if you're in a support group, also have a therapist because your therapist can help go. Hmm. I think you're either minimizing or you're owning their stuff. And that's important to be validated as well as. understand that just cause they have it bad or worse or better. You're all in different places.Randi: 5:45

You don't need to take that on as your own, too. So we're going to talk about how to identify if your friendship has turned unhealthy and toxic and some signs that your friendship is headed down a path that you might want to veer awayJess: 6:00

from. So if your friends are guilt tripping you into doing what they want to do versus what you want to do would be an example. TheyRandi: 6:08

ignore any real problems in your friendship. If you try to talk to them about things, they like dismiss it. If they'reJess: 6:16

rarely owning up to feelings of where they've hurt you or dismissed you and they're not acknowledging that when you bring itRandi: 6:22

up. And they don't take accountability for their actions. So they're in essence. It's almost gaslighting you for these things, or they're manipulating you into doing things they want, or getting things for them, like some friendships can turn toxic financially and things like that too. They can use you and manipulate you. Well,Jess: 6:45

and if it makes you feel uncomfortable, if you're like, my needs aren't being met in this, this friendship is no longer meeting the needs.Randi: 6:52

Or they always expect you to do more for them and be there for them and they make you feel bad if you're not, but then they're never there for you whenJess: 7:01

you need them. If they're always all about them. Yes, you may have had a bonded experience to begin with. would you be friends with this person if you didn't have this trauma bondRandi: 7:14

with them? If you hadn't gone to school with them, or you hadn't worked with them, or you hadn't been in grad school with them, or you hadn't been in this. situation where you were both experiencing this. Would you really be friends with them? Ask yourself that question. Yeah. Are they showingJess: 7:30

up for you? And that's the truth. Are your friends showing up for you? I tell my kiddo all the time, are they showing up for you? So They're Let's discuss some of the self care practices that are really important for our listeners to navigate theseRandi: 7:43

bonds. It's important to prioritize your own mental health and well being while supporting friends too. You still need to support yourself. So it's important to do mindfulness exercises, grounding techniques, even journaling to help process your own emotions over the trauma or experiences that you have gone through.Jess: 8:04

Let's remember that having friendships that you have formed during these traumas, they really can be a source of immense strength for you. They can. As Randy has said in previous episodes, They may not be lifelong friends. They may be friends for that moment that you're there because they understand your pain,Randi: 8:26

right? You can see it as just a support for that time. Mm hmm and It's okay to let that go once you've healed from that and move on and you don't need to feel guilty about that either because like we said, there's sometimes a time and a place for friendships and if you have noticed that this friendship is no longer bringing value or it's bring toxicity, because maybe that person hasn't moved on from that. They may notJess: 8:50

be healing likeRandi: 8:51

you are. And they might not have moved on from that trauma or that experience that you both had bonded over. And it might be time to step away from that, or maybe you have both healed at the same time and you can continue on this path together. But regardless, always just look inward to where you're at. with this where you're at with your growth and your therapy and your self healing and always do what's best for you in thatJess: 9:18

moment. We want you to prioritize your mental health and we want you to encourage growth within yourself. And again, if your friendship that formed through trauma bonding If it doesn't fit you anymore, you don't have to wear it. You can let it go until they have decided to move on or until they have grown as well. just because you were friends once doesn't mean you have to be friends for life with this. And just remember that your mental health is just as important as your physicalRandi: 9:48

health. And taking care of ourselves should always be a priority.Jess: 9:53

So now that we're wrapping up our episode we're going to go back through and answer our have you ever thoughts. All right, Randi, so what is trauma bonding with friends? SoRandi: 10:03

trauma bonding with friends occurs when individuals who have experienced similar traumas form a strong emotional connection based on shared pain and suffering. This bond can be intense, but it can also sometimes have negative effects on mental health and relationships. So Jess, how can I recognize trauma bonding within my friendships?Jess: 10:24

You can recognize trauma bonding within friendships by observing the signs such as excessive reliance on each other for emotional support, difficulty setting boundaries, and a blurred sense of individual experiences and identities. So if you can pay attention to whether your friendship is primarily based on shared trauma rather than a balanced connection, that's when you can go, okay, this might just be a trauma bond. So Randy, are trauma bonds healthy for me and my friends?Randi: 10:52

it depends. They're not healthy if they take on a form of toxicity. They can provide understanding and support, but they can also enable destructive behaviors and hinder personal growth and healing. So it is essential to establish healthy boundaries. While you at working through their trauma because you might not be on the same path of healing from that experience as your friend is. So you kind of need to meet each other where you're at. Jess can trauma bonding affect my mental health?Jess: 11:24

Uh, yeah, totally. Trauma bonding, can have such an impact on our mental health. It can lead to codependency, unhealthy coping mechanisms. it can hinder personal healing and it can make us feel worse mental health wise. Randy, how can I break the cycle of trauma bonding with myRandi: 11:42

friends? Breaking the cycle of trauma bonding involves setting boundaries, promoting open communication, seeking therapy, and focusing on your own individual healing and growth. It's also important to build supportive friendships based off of mutual respect and shared interests. Jess, can trauma bonding friendships prevent me from healing?Jess: 12:01

Yes. the problem with trauma bonding is that it can hinder your own personal, healing and it can really just keep that unresolved pain front and center, continuously sharing trauma over and over again, without really processing it with a professional, can really stop you from moving forward. so it's really important that if you're going to be in any of these support groups, or that you're going to be in friendships where, these traumas are similar, that you have somebody who can walk you through and help process what you're feeling. And I see this a lot with, infertility. You know, there's so many boards out there that you can get on for infertility that people just feel very lost and abandoned when the person who was on there was leading it gets pregnant and leaves. Yes. They don't come back and talk about their experience, they just leave.Randi: 12:53

Yeah, and it perpetuates another feeling of abandonment I even noticed that too in, joining weight loss support groups is that I found there was a really huge negative culture with it. And while I was doing well and, losing weight, other people would get it. Bitter or jealous that they weren't where I was at and so it would created this really toxic environment And I had to leave a lot of support groups I was in because I felt like it was dragging me backwards instead of helping me move forward So it's really important to be self aware of those things And if there's red flags like that that are holding you back from healingJess: 13:30

and growing So, Randy, are there any risks in trauma bonding with friends?Randi: 13:35

Yes, there can be risks in trauma bonding and friendships. These include being stuck in the past, experiencing triggers. Maybe that friend is bringing up something, that they went through that also triggers you, developing an emotional codependency that can hinder your personal growth. And so it's really important to recognize these risks and prioritize your own healing. Jess, how can I foster healthy relationships alongside, trauma bonded friendship?Jess: 14:04

It's really important to focus on your individual healing, that is beyond just the shared trauma. it's important to establish healthy boundaries and build connections based upon shared interests and values. Thank you. So you guys, had a shared experience and you can be friends. Take that beyond just talking about the trauma, Take that to go hiking. Take that to go, build relationships with others that are not just about that trauma. seek support from your friends who prioritize their own personal growth, who can offer the mutual support that you might need.Randi: 14:40

Thank you all for tuning in to the Women's Mental Health Podcast. If youJess: 14:44

found this episode insightful, don't forget to subscribe, share, and leave us a review. Stay tuned for our next episode where we'll continue exploring topics to empower your emotional and mentalRandi: 14:54

health journey. Until next time, take care and be kind to yourself.

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Trauma Bonding in Friendships Podcast S2 Ep 17

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