Trauma Responses: Exploring How Trauma Affects Our Behavior

Trauma impacts everyone differently. Some people are able to repress the effects of a traumatic situation for years. Others struggle to deal with the effects of it immediately. One thing most trauma survivors have in common, however, is that trauma can impact behavior for years. This is called a trauma response.

From a young age, we’re taught about fight-or-flight responses. Those are actually responses to trauma, along with “freeze” and “fawn.” No matter your response to a traumatic event or experience, understanding how trauma affects your behavior can make a big difference in how you live your life and the decisions you make.

With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at trauma responses and how the things you’ve experienced can have an impact on your behaviors. 

The Fight Response

People use the fight response as a method of self-preservation. It can actually be a positive thing when used the right way. Using the fight response, you’ll have an easier time setting boundaries and being assertive about your needs and wants. You’ll also be more likely to have courage. You might even end up being a natural protector of the people you love. 

However, sometimes the response can be too intense. It can lead trauma survivors to feel like the threat is still constantly lingering and can cause controlling behaviors or even lead to distrust, and unstable relationships.

The Flight Response

Like the fight response, the flight can be healthy for you when coping with trauma. It can steer you away from negative relationships and make it easier to step away from danger. 

But it can also keep you from living a full, satisfying life. Trauma victims who are “stuck” to this response often obsess over certain things and tend to be perfectionists to a fault. You might struggle with constant fear or even deal with OCD tendencies.

The Freeze Response

Fewer people might know about the freeze response, but it essentially refers to “pausing” while experiencing trauma. In healthy situations, it can cause you to be mindful and fully aware within a moment. 

However, when you choose to freeze every time your trauma is triggered, you could “zone out” to protect yourself. People who associate with this type of response can quickly be seen as disconnected. You might struggle to try new things, and you’d rather isolate yourself. 

The Fawn Response

The fawn response is probably the least known, but it still heavily impacts those who utilize it. Essentially, a “fawn” will do whatever it takes to be a people-pleaser and diffuse a negative situation. It’s not uncommon for kids or those in abusive relationships to have this kind of trauma response. You learn that if you can please the person causing your trauma, the threat will be neutralized.

While this can contribute to feelings of compassion for others, it isn’t a healthy way to live your life. You might be attracted to codependent relationships or lose your sense of self. 

As you can see, trauma can affect your behavior in a variety of ways. You might not be “stuck” with just one response type. Rather, you might experience behaviors from all of these different types of common responses. If you’re able to use those behaviors in healthy ways, you might find it easier to work through the things you’ve experienced.

However, if you feel like you’re not always in control of your behavior and those responses tend to “take over,” it’s never too late to get the help you deserve. You might not be able to change what happened to you in the past. However, you can absolutely find greater peace and freedom in your future. Feel free to contact me for more information.

Be well,

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