Understanding the Intersections Between a Trauma Bond, Codependency, and Anxious Attachment

When it comes to romantic relationships, understanding the complexities that come with them can be confusing. How do we know if our partners are too dependent on us? What is the difference between an anxious attachment and something like a trauma bond or codependency? 

Knowing the distinctions between these three elements can help us to better understand individual needs within a relationship so that we can create healthy and lasting bonds in our partnerships moving forward. 

In this segment, I will delve into the complexities of anxious attachment, trauma bonding, and codependency by comparing their origins, characteristics, underlying causes and how they may manifest differently in different individuals or situations. 

By breaking down each issue separately as well as looking at their intersections together, you will have a greater understanding of what behaviors constitute unhealthy patterns when it comes to connection in intimate relationships so that you may recognize where changes are needed for healthier outlets of expression.

(If you prefer to watch video content, you can check out the video for today’s blog topic, here.)


 Who am I?

But before we dive into it, if you are new to my online community, welcome!

My name is Briana MacWilliam and I am a licensed and board-certified creative arts therapist with more than 15 years in the field helping adults struggling with insecure attachment attract and cultivate soul shaking loving relationships  using my trademarked method. 

This method assumes a trauma-informed somatic approach to healing attachment styles in a spiritual framework. To learn more, I invite you to visit my “about” page here. 

If you like what you see here, make sure that you follow along for more related topics. 

I take all comments into consideration for video topics like these, and for live Q&As, and I wouldn’t want you to miss out!

Now, let’s dive into our topic for today.

How does anxious attachment style affect relationships?

Attachment theory explains how an individual’s early life experiences can shape their adult attachment style, impacting their relationships in various ways. There are four attachment styles, anxious, avoidant, fearful-avoidant (or “disorganized”) and secure.

To learn more about all the attachment styles, I recommend watching the video on my YouTube channel, Attachment Styles: A Basic Overview.

Today, we will focus on anxious attachment style. 

What are the signs of anxious attachment style?

Anxious attachment style, is characterized by a fear of abandonment and a tendency to cling tightly to a partner. People with this attachment style crave intimacy, but often feel insecure and constantly seek reassurance. If they feel invalidated or unsafe in a relationship due to emotional dismissal or distance, they can feel helpless and then become controlling to try to re-establish that connection and compensate for feeling powerless. As a result, relationships can become suffocating for their partners, causing conflicts and driving them away.

In essence, Anxious attachment is a coping mechanism that we learn in response to early attachment traumas. When we experience inconsistency, rejection or abandonment in our early relationships, it can leave us feeling unsafe and insecure. We may learn to be vigilant for signs of rejection or abandonment and develop strategies to pursue closeness and avoid rejection.

When the coping strategies we choose become consistent and frequent enough that they impact our world view and perception, inspiring us towards a particular frequency of attitude and behavior, they are often adopted as identity traits and become an recognizable as an attachment style.

And this includes strengths, as well as weaknesses. 

(Not sure if you have anxious attachment? Take this quiz and find out!)

What are the strengths of anxious attachment style?

For example, the strengths of an anxious partner might include being sensitive and attentive to their partner’s feelings, highly aware of the emotional environment of a relationship, and willing to work on problems together. As such, they can often be strong communicators, but need to learn to balance this with healthy boundaries.

An anxious partner’s weaknesses might include the tendency to become overly-dependent on their partner, developing feelings of insecurity and fear of abandonment when things don’t go as planned. This can be highly overwhelming for their partner, and can lead to a cycle of over-compensating and reacting in unhealthy ways.

What causes anxious attachment style?

Its important to realize that attachment styles  evolve at the intersection of nature and nurture. For example, research shows that we can be genetically predisposed to anxiety or avoidance, but if you have loving care givers and a stable environment this propensity need not negatively affect you.

On the other hand, if you grow up in stressful environment, then the attachment style you have may be the result of the type of rewards or punishments you received, in combination with what temperamentally allows you to get your safety needs met.

In other words, The child who is raised with consistent love and validation from their parent or caregiver will likely develop a secure attachment style, while the other sibling who grows up in a chaotic and unpredictable environment may develop an anxious, avoidant, or disorganized attachment style.

But they are all ways of coping with the same wound, which is fundamentally not feeling safe, which leads to emotional confusion and immaturity, while navigating relationships through the lens of survival concerns.

If you want to learn more about anxious attachment specifically, especially the strengths that come with anxious attachment,  and how to heal anxious attachment, I recommend watching my video… 6 Signs Of An Anxious Partner And Six Tips To Embrace It

What is a trauma bond?

The complexities of human relationships can often lead to attachment issues, which can then lead to trauma bonding and codependency. These three concepts can overlap.

So let’s talk about trauma bonding first. What is a trauma bond?

Trauma bonding is a broad term that refers to a specific pattern of relating to others. Trauma bonding is often a re-enactment of our early attachment traumas, where we repeat the same dynamics we experienced in the past. This is because there is a powerful physiological component, in which our nervous system has come to associate a degree of stress and adrenaline with affection, love, arousal and familiarity. There is also an emotional and psychological component, in which the inner child may be trying to re-live, in order to revise, old and painful ways of relating.

What causes a trauma bond?

For example, a person who grew up with an emotionally distant father may find themselves attracted to emotionally unavailable partners and then try to prove their worth by “fixing” them or working hard to earn their love, in order to acquire the love their father never gave them.

Trauma bonding can also show up in relationships where there’s abuse, addiction, or a power imbalance. In these situations, the victim might develop a bond with their abuser as a way to cope with the trauma, and find a safe proximity, believing this is necessary to their physical and existential survival. 

This can lead to a toxic relationship dynamic that is hard to break.

What are the signs of a trauma bond relationship?

Recognizing signs of a trauma-bonded relationship is crucial for healing and seeking healthier connections. Here are five common signs to be aware of:

1. Cyclic Patterns of Abuse and Reconciliation: Trauma-bonded relationships often involve a repetitive cycle of abuse or mistreatment, followed by brief periods of reconciliation, affection, or apologies. This rollercoaster of emotions creates confusion and keeps the bond strong.

2. Isolation from Support Systems: Perpetrators in trauma-bonded relationships often isolate their victims from friends and family. This isolation makes it harder for the victim to seek help or perspective outside the relationship.

3. Intense Attachment Despite Abuse: Individuals in trauma-bonded relationships may feel an intense emotional attachment to their abuser, even if they recognize the harm being done. This attachment can be overpowering and difficult to break.

4. Loss of Self-Esteem and Identity: Victims in trauma-bonded relationships often experience a significant decline in self-esteem and may lose their sense of identity. They may feel dependent on the abuser for validation and purpose.

5. Difficulty Ending the Relationship: Despite recognizing the toxicity, individuals in trauma-bonded relationships struggle to end the relationship. Fear of abandonment, reprisals, or the belief that the abuser can change keeps them stuck in a harmful cycle.

I also find individuals struggling with this type of bond feel a sense of spiritual significance is tied to this type of relationship, believing that their trauma-bonded partner is their soul mate. I believe the argument could be made, but probably not in the way that you might imagine.

To learn more about my psycho-spiritual approach to trauma bonding, check out my video on youtube, Are Trauma Bonds True Bonds?


Now, let’s talk about codependency.

What is Codependency?

Codependency is a specific kind of trauma bond that is characterized by a focus on meeting the needs of others at the expense of our own needs. A codependent relationship is one where someone often becomes a caretaker or rescuer and the other person, as a result, becomes dependent.

What is the caretaker’s role in a codependent relationship?

Without their partner, the caretaker constantly loses their sense of purpose and value. Their thoughts and actions always prioritize the well-being and happiness of their partner above themselves.

As the more functionally competent partner, the caretaker generally cedes to their partner’s dependent and self-destructive behavior, which frequently includes addictive behaviors. 

The caretaker was usually a parentified child in a dysfunctional family dynamic, that tried to smooth things over so as not to cause a fuss.

What is the dependent’s role in a codependent relationship?

The dependent partner is commonly plagued with feelings of low self-esteem, anxiety about failure, self-doubt, guilt, and remorse. This person is the child who absorbed the family’s dysfunction during their childhood and now reproduces it as an adult.

An example of a codependent relationship would be an alcoholic partner who is codependent on their spouse, and the loving spouse that takes care of them, disregards their own needs in order to prioritize their partner’s.

5 Signs of a codependent relationship

Codependency is a complex pattern of behavior that can develop in relationships, often characterized by an unhealthy reliance on one another. It’s essential to be aware of the signs of codependency to foster healthier, more balanced relationships. Here are five key signs to watch out for:

1. Excessive Caretaking: Codependent individuals often prioritize their partner’s needs above their own to an extreme degree. They may feel responsible for their partner’s emotions, well-being, and problems, often neglecting their own needs in the process.

2. Lack of Boundaries: Codependent relationships often lack clear boundaries. Individuals may have difficulty setting and maintaining personal boundaries, leading to enmeshment and blurred lines between their own identity and their partner’s.

3. Low Self-Esteem: Codependent individuals tend to have low self-esteem and may seek validation and self-worth through their relationship. They may fear abandonment and go to great lengths to avoid it.

4. Difficulty with Communication: Healthy communication can be challenging in codependent relationships. Individuals may avoid expressing their true feelings or needs, leading to suppressed emotions and unresolved conflicts.

5. Fixing and Controlling Behaviors: Codependent partners may engage in fixing or controlling behaviors, attempting to “rescue” their partner from their problems. This can include enabling destructive behaviors like addiction.

Recognizing these signs is a crucial first step towards addressing codependency and working towards healthier, more balanced relationships.

How do I know if I am in a codependent relationship?

Sometimes, even with all the signs, it can be hard to know if you are stuck in a codependent dynamic. For example, Jane and John had been married for 10 years. Jane had grown up in an alcoholic home with an emotionally unavailable mother. She was the “responsible child” who learned to take care of her parents while never feeling seen or valued for who she was. As a result, she was used to putting other people’s needs before hers and not even realizing she was doing it.

John had been an alcoholic for several years and Jane felt responsible for getting him sober. She would do anything to make sure he didn’t drink and kept his addiction a secret from their friends and family. When John was drinking, she would take care of him in every sense—physically, emotionally, and financially. 

She sacrificed her own needs and wants to make sure he was taken care of.

In this situation, Jane is the codependent partner who had developed attachment issues due to her childhood trauma and John is the dependent partner whose addiction perpetuated those wounds. This type of relationship can be incredibly difficult to break and requires a lot of self-awareness, understanding of one’s own history, and professional help.

Importantly, both partners are preoccupied with being physically and emotionally close to someone you consider essential for satisfying your needs, and so that your sense of identity and self-worth is saved, whether you’re the rescuer, the rescuee.

It’s also important to realize that all of the insecure attachment styles can get caught in a codependent dynamic, yes, even avoidant partners. 

To learn more about this check out my video, Attachment And Codependency The Radical Truth

How to heal from anxious attachment, trauma bonding, and codependency?

Healing from anxious attachment, trauma bonding, and codependency is a profound journey of self-discovery and transformation. It involves recognizing that anxious attachment is rooted in your nervous system’s innate survival mechanism, prioritizing relationships for safety. Trauma bonds are the re-enactment of early attachment wounds, often unconsciously seeking to repair those injuries. Codependency, a specific form of trauma bond, reflects dysfunctional patterns from early attachment experiences. To heal, you must address these wounds in a four-step process:

1. Clarifying Desire: Begin by understanding what you genuinely want in relationships and why. Self-reflection helps uncover your true desires, guiding your healing journey.

2. Releasing the Root Pain: Recognize the mental and emotional turmoil that arises when you express your desires but doubt your worthiness to attain them. These doubts often stem from past wounds. Acknowledge and release this pain through introspection and self-compassion.

3. Releasing Energetic Blocks: Understand that trauma responses create energetic constrictions in your body and spirit. Consider utilizing integrative methods, such as energy healing modalities, to address these blocks. These modalities help release trapped emotions and restore balance to mind, body, and spirit.

4. Installation: Embrace a new, more positive identity by shifting your attachment security towards a higher plane of consciousness. This might involve connecting with your spiritual essence and transcendent aspects of self. Cultivate behaviors that align with this “soul-centered” attachment style.

Healing from these complex dynamics is a holistic and deeply personal journey. Seeking support from therapists, energy healers, and spiritual guides can be invaluable. To embark on this healing journey and gain deeper insights into your attachment style, consider taking the Attachment Styles Quiz. It’s a valuable tool that can help you understand how these dynamics may be affecting your relationships and how I assist individuals in navigating this transformative process. Remember, healing is a personal and transformative journey that takes time and self-compassion. As you progressively heal your attachment wounds, you’ll move towards more secure and fulfilling relationships.

Additionally, if you’d like to learn more about each of these four steps in detail, I invite you to watch the video on my YouTube channel, Unlock True Love: 4 Steps to Secure Attachment in Dating.

Can attachment styles change?

Can attachment styles change? The resounding answer is yes, and the journey towards transformation is filled with hope and potential. Just as the human spirit possesses incredible resilience, our attachment styles can evolve, leading to more fulfilling and harmonious relationships. But you don’t have to take our word for it. Let the stories of two remarkable individuals who embarked on this transformative path inspire you.

How Whitney Manifested The Man of Her Dreams

When Whitney stumbled upon my Healing Hungry Love Masterclass, she instantly knew it was meant for her. It seemed to address every aspect of her life that needed solutions. The somatic exercises in particular topic caught her attention—the concept of “charge” in our bodies. Whitney had been experiencing unexplained bodily sensations, and even her therapist couldn’t provide the guidance she sought.

As Whitney dove into the course, she found herself captivated by the third phase of the program, including activities to expand your energetic “set points” and develop your own “alter ego”.

Being a goal-oriented person, she thrived in this action-oriented and transformative phase! But the real breakthrough came in the form of a powerful insight. The exercises at the beginning, where she defined what she truly desired in a partner, turned out to be the key. When she revisited her notes towards the end of the course, she was astounded. The person she was currently dating checked off every single point on her list!

It wasn’t merely about making a superficial checklist; the course had helped Whitney receive the love she desired. It was a profound shift in perspective and readiness.

Whitney shared…

” My biggest insight, I feel like your course was in line with my next level…it molded us to where we could be open to receiving what we were asking or looking for.”

To learn more, watch Whitney’s testimonial below, and take the attachment styles quiz to find out what program would be a good fit for you.

How Kairi Attracted a Secure Partner

Meet Kairi, a courageous soul who discovered the power of Anxious Attachment 101 and unlocked a world of love and security. In her heartfelt testimonial, Kairi reveals how the course’s arts-based experientials led her to profound changes in her emotions, allowing her to move beyond intellectual understanding and truly connect with her deepest feelings.

The arts-based exercises had a remarkable impact on Kairi’s journey. They provided her with a tangible outlet to identify, sort, and name her emotions, transcending mere intellectual understanding. As Kairi immersed herself in these creative practices, she discovered a newfound sense of self-awareness and emotional clarity. It was through these transformative experiences that she began to attract something extraordinary into her life.

Soon after completing the course, Kairi crossed paths with an amazing secure man who would become her rock in the storm. This remarkable partner provided her with a level of security and support she had never known before. The relationship they built together was not based on surface-level dynamics but on their mutual commitment to taking care of their own needs and expressing themselves authentically. Kairi realized that focusing on her own growth and well-being had transformed her approach to relationships, allowing her to offer her true self and attract a love that was secure and nurturing.

In Kairi’s words,

Your course far surpasses the work of many other so-called experts I’ve met.”

Kairi’s story serves as a powerful reminder that insight alone is not enough. If you find yourself trapped in a cycle of understanding but struggling to feel differently or attract healthier partners, Kairi’s journey will resonate deeply with you. Her experience demonstrates the transformative power of bridging the gap between intellectual understanding and emotional transformation.

Are you ready to experience the incredible changes that await you? Don’t miss out on Kairi’s inspiring story and the opportunity to embark on your own journey of growth and love. Take the attachment style quiz now and unlock a path to a more fulfilling and secure future.

Final Thoughts

For individuals struggling with insecure attachment, navigating relationships can be a challenging and stressful task. However, recognizing and identifying ways to work with your attachment style can lead to healthier and more fulfilling relationships. This may require developing self-awareness and understanding the root causes of your attachment anxiety, such as past experiences or trauma. 

Additionally, practicing communication skills, setting boundaries, and seeking professional help can aid in the journey towards a more secure attachment style. By taking proactive steps, individuals with insecure  attachment can learn to build healthier relationships and thrive in all aspects of their lives.

Ultimately, while insecure attachment, trauma bonding, and codependency have many similarities, understanding the differences can be key to overcoming them. 

Relationships built upon these patterns of behaviors can be identified and addressed. While challenging, it is possible to break out of the insecure attachment cycles and learn how to build healthy relationships. 

It’s important to seek out support in recognizing and strengthening our current and future relationships as we move forward. 

In conclusion, open dialogue and self-reflection are powerful tools on our journey to healthier attachments. Your thoughts and questions are invaluable, shaping the content that can benefit you and others.

If you’ve found this helpful, please share your insights in the comments below. Your input fuels future content.

To delve deeper into these topics, including the path to healing from relationship patterns, I invite you to take our attachment styles quiz. Discover how these insights may be impacting your relationships today. Let’s embark on this journey together.



Leave a Reply

Hi, I'm Briana.

And I love romance novels and campy science fiction shows (anyone else a die-hard Supernatural fan?). I also like being my own boss. Doing what I want to do, when I want to do it. And treating work like play. Through my education, professional experience, and personal life experiences, I have come to passionately serve insecurely attached adults, who want to experience soul-deep intimacy, in their romantic relationships.

Discover the #1 secret to a healthy love life!

Recent Posts