The Freeze or Fawn Responses

When you feel there is no escape

Shirley J. Davis


Photo by Ümit Bulut on Unsplash

Often, people who live with complex post-traumatic stress disorder experience emotional pain caused by traumatic events.

By now, most of you have heard of the four trauma responses: fight, flight, freeze, and fawn. These four essential reactions are caused when you feel stressed, traumatized, or in danger.

This article will focus on the freeze or fawn responses related to codependency and ways to counteract them.

What are the Freeze and Fawn Responses

Freeze is your body’s biological reaction to a situation that you cannot escape, which causes you to shut down and literally freeze. The freeze response causes symptoms like the following:

· Your heart rate decreases.

· You dissociate to detach from what is happening.

· You may feel numb.

· You are immobilized where you feel you cannot move your legs or arms.

· You may find you are holding your breath.

· You feel confused.

· You have problems speaking.

· You are not able to act or decide.

· You lack focus and have trouble concentrating.

Another angle to consider is that, like all animals, sometimes playing dead or freezing in a very quiet stance can save your life. It is not uncommon for people who are being sexually assaulted to become immobile and are not capable of running away or fighting.

Fawn is different. You may fawn when it feels safer to be submissive and obedient to your attacker than any of the three other responses. Fawning causes you to please and appease someone else instead of taking care of your needs. The most common incidence where fawn is used may be in an abusive situation, such as a child who cannot escape their attacker. The child might feel and indeed be safer if they fawn.

There are definitive signs that the fawn response is activated, which include the following:

· You have a hard time saying “no.”

· You are a people-pleaser.



Shirley J. Davis

I am an author/speaker/grant writer in the U.S. My passion is authoring information about mental health disorders, especially dissociative identity disorder..