Trauma: Response and Recovery

Trauma: Response & Recovery

By: Paige Martin

Trauma can be defined as a “deeply distressing or disturbing experience.” Sometimes people learn trauma responses as a means of surviving their childhood, abusive relationships or severe trauma. There are four types of trauma responses that are recognized by the mental health community: fight, flight, freeze and fawn. Each of the responses has a healthy and unhealthy ways of showing up. Understanding each type of trauma response can help you understand your behavior and change behavioral patterns and healing. Here’s a breakdown of the four trauma responses…

  • Fight Response
    • Self-preservation no matter who you hurt in the process
    • Positive Responses: establish firm boundaries, be assertive, find courage, become a strong leader, and protect yourself
    • Negative Responses: Controlling behaviors, narcissistic tendencies, bullying, conduct disorder, demanding perfection from others, and feelings of entitlement.
  • Flight Response
    • If the threat seems impossible to take down in a fight, people react by leaving the situation entirely
    • Positive Responses: disengage from harmful conversations, leave unhealthy relationships, remove yourself from physically dangerous situations, properly assess danger
    • Negative Responses: obsessive or compulsive tendencies, needing to stay busy constantly, panic and fear, perfectionism, workaholic tendencies, inability to sit still
  • Freeze Response
    • Instead of trying to fight the danger or flee, someone pauses.
    • Positive Responses: mindfulness, awareness, full presence in the moment
    • Negative Responses: dissociation, isolation, zoning out, brain fog, difficulty making decisions or taking actions, perceived laziness, fear of trying new things
  • Fawn Response
    • People who spend a lot of time around toxic people learn to go above and beyond to make the toxic person happy
    • Positive Responses: compassion for others, compromise, active listening, fairness
    • Negative Responses: codependent relationships, someone to stay in a violent relationship, loss of self, people-pleasing to the point of destruction, little or no boundaries