The Psychology of Toxic Relationships Between Narcissists and Codependents – Trauma Bonding

Written by Angela Atkinson

Let’s dig into the psychology of what happens between a narcissist and a codependent in a toxic relationship. The typical toxic relationship involves trauma bonding. Learn why and how trauma bonding happens in a toxic relationship, plus the psychology of the narcissist as well as the psychology of the codependent during the relationship. And finally, we’ll touch on what it takes to heal after such a relationship.

What is Trauma Bonding?

Trauma bonding is a common condition among narcissistic abuse survivors and their abusers. Thanks to an ongoing cycle of intermittent reinforcement, many survivors of toxic relationships go through this, much like kidnapping victims and hostages do. Trauma bonding is often a bigger issue for people who also grew up in toxic and abusive homes, partially just because it feels like “normal” to them.

Read more about trauma bonding here. 

What is a Narcissist?

A narcissist, in general,  is someone with a high opinion of him/herself, but when we’re talking about narcissistic abuse, we’re talking about the type of person who is toxic, verbally (and sometimes physically) abusive. They may or may not also be diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder. For the record, while it is not considered to be a “mental illness,” but a personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder manifests in an inflated sense of importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others.

What is Codependency?

Codependency is complex, but a general definition is that it is a toxic emotional and behavioral condition that makes it nearly impossible to have a healthy, mutually satisfying relationship. It is also known as “relationship addiction” because people with codependency often form and stay in relationships that are one-sided, emotionally destructive, and/or abusive. The term originates from Alcoholics Anonymous but fits toxic relationships surprisingly well.

What stage of narcissistic abuse recovery healing are you in?

Knowing your stage of recovery is the best way to know what to do to heal yourself if you are in one of these toxic relationships. Take our self-assessment to find your stage in narcissistic abuse recovery right here, free.

Resources for Narcissistic Abuse Recovery

Do you think you’re being abused by a narcissist in a toxic relationship? Have you dealt with narcissistic abuse in the past? Are you working on narcissistic abuse recovery? If so, you’ll want to know about these resources.

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