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How Quickly Can a Trauma Bond Form?

Reviewed by Karis A. Williams, MSMHC, LPC,   January 13, 2024

Trauma bonding can be a different experience for anyone involved in an abusive relationship.  First, the relationship can be an intimate one, a family member, a work associate, a neighbor, a fellow member of a church or other social organization…or literally any kind of relationship.  Next, some will not be trauma bonded to their abuser, while others can have any level of trauma bonding, preventing them from thinking they are able to leave the toxic relationship.  How quickly a trauma bond can form is also widely variable.

So, with all of that in mind, how quickly can a trauma bond form?  As a whole, it can be anywhere from a few days to weeks, to even months.  If the relationship starts out very intense, the trauma bond will form very quickly.  On the flip side, if the relationship moves more cautiously, then a trauma bond may take much longer to fully form.  This is by far the more difficult trauma bond to heal from.  Let’s take a deeper look at how quickly a trauma bond can form and what working through it looks like in each of the different forms.

The Quickly Formed Trauma Bond:  A Matter of Days

The quickest trauma bond relationship by far is the couple relationship.  You have the most wonderful date with someone that your friends said was the most kind person.  He was so caring, thoughtful, and in tune with you.  He asked all the right questions.  And the chemistry was amazing.

Of course, you agree to another date.  And you start talking on the phone, texting, emailing, everything.  Instantly, you feel like you are in a whole new world.  But you have no idea what that new world is going to bring you.

The more time you spend together, the more perfect this new mate is.  And in the shortest amount of time, you are head over heels.  Before you know it, you are in a fully committed relationship.  And not too long after that, you are probably seeing some red flags.  But you give your new partner the benefit of the doubt.  After all, you aren’t perfect.  Why should expect them to be?

The trauma bonding process is dependent on actions that cause you to implicitly trust the abuser and look the other way when they mistreat you.  For more on recognizing the signs of the process, check out this article.  And if you think you may be involved in a trauma bond relationship, take this test to get more information.

Quickly Formed Trauma Bonds With Authority Figures

Another criteria that defines how quickly a trauma bond can form is when relating to those in authority.  This includes parents, bosses, leaders of organizations, church leadership, teachers, and virtually any type of authority.  Because the abuser is in authority over the victim, the dance they do is based on the fact that the victim can’t do much to change the situation.  Sure, they can get a new job, go to a new church, or find a new organization.  But often it isn’t that easy.  So they stay and put up with the crap.  

Another aspect to the “dance” is that while the abuser knows exactly what they are doing to the victim, they must also keep their public persona squeaky clean.  This can slow the trauma bond down a little, especially if the victim isn’t alone with their abuser as often.  But for as long as the abuser feels like their authority allows them to do whatever they want and the victim feels like they can’t do anything about it, the power imbalance will almost always cause the trauma bond to form more quickly.

The Moderately Quickly Formed Trauma Bond

The moderately quick trauma bonds that are formed are pretty much any relationship that is not immediately intimate.  New neighbors, friends acquaintances, co-workers, fellow members of social organizations or church, or basically any relationship that has the potential for regular interaction can form a trauma bond.  And depending on the victim’s abitlity to read the red flags, the trauma bond can form quickly or take some time.

In the case of the victim that doesn’t see the red flags, the trauma bond will form much more quickly, often in weeks to a few months.  As the abuser realizes that his bad behavior is not being picked up by the victim, he will continue to abuse, even step up the abuse.  Then, as the victim starts to feel the weight of the abuse, he will then start the love-bombing or positive reinforcement until he gets the victim back in his good graces.  This delicately balanced dance continues until the trauma bonded victim feels like there is no escape.  

The time frame all depends on how well or poorly the victim sees the warning signs and red flags.  For an article to help you recognize the ins and outs of trauma bonding and if you may be dealing with it on some level, check out this article.

The Slowly Formed Trauma Bond:  The Frog in Boiling Water

In the slowly formed trauma bond relationship, the abuser sees that the victim doesn’t respond well to the push and pull of the abuse/love-bombing cycle.  So they slow the cycle way down.  They are more careful to do things that seem overtly kind and loving while abusing in underhanded ways that will be harder for the victim to see for what it is.  Then slowly, over time, the victim lets their guard down.  And the abuse get a bit more overt.  It is at this point that the abuser realizes they have worn down their victim and they have formed a trauma bond.  

This process can go on from several months to years.  It all depends on how adept the abuser is at getting their victim(s) to let down their guard and start excusing the gaslighting, deception, blame shifting, and other bad behaviors.  

On the other hand, if the abuser realizes that the victim isn’t going to let down their guard after some time, they will realize they can find an easier victim and move on.  


If it were up to the abuser, the trauma bond would be formed from the first moment they meet their victim.  And that is why they immediately start positively reinforcing a new relationship, also known as love-bombing. 

Additionally, when the abuse comes, it comes in the form of very covert abuse–saying things that can be taken as positive when they are really negative, feigning false concern while accusing the victim of something they didn’t do, lies that confuse the victim because they don’t make sense or are out of context. 

How this all plays out and how the victim responds will determine the length of time it takes for the trauma bond to occur.  But if the victim is emotionally aware and mature, the trauma bond won’t happen at all and the abuser will move on to easier targets.  

Finally, know that while we can pick up patterns of how quickly a trauma bond can form, there are no set rules.  Trauma bonds can form in any length of time based on the individuals’ behavior involved.  

If you think you may be the victim of a trauma bond, check out this article to find out more information.  Also, to make sure, think about finding a counselor who is experienced in matters of codependency and trauma.

If you feel like you are in physical danger, call the National Domestic Abuse Hotline at 800-799-7233 or visit them online.

If you liked this article, I think you will also love the following articles:

How to Break a Trauma Bond in 11 Steps

Are You Trauma Bonded?  Take This Test to Find Out!

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Types of Trauma Bonding:  What You Need to Know

The Seven Stages of Trauma Bonding:  An In-depth Look

Signs of Trauma Bonding You Need to Look Out For

What to do When Your Narcissist Threatens You

The Bible Used as a Weapon Against You:  You can Overcome!

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Hi! I am the founder of Navigating Religious Narcissism after being raised under a narcissistic mother and married to a narcissistic man for 31 years. It is my prayer that I can be as valuable on your journey to healing and peace as were so many who crossed my path of healing.

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