Fight or flight is a well known stress response that occurs when hormonal released in the body, prompting you to stay and fight or run and flee from danger.
Freeze and fawn are a broader collection of natural bodily reactions to stressful, frighting or dangerous events. This sympathetic nervous system response dates back to our ancestors coming face to face with dangerous animals.
Fight, Flight, Freeze or Fawn
Fight, flight or freeze are the 3 most basic stress responses. They reflect how your body will react to danger. Fawn is the 4th stress response that was identified later.
The fight response is your body’s way of facing any perceived threat aggressively. Flight means you body urges you to run from danger. Freeze is your body’s inability to move or act against a threat. Fawn is your body’s stress response to try to please someone to avoid conflict.
The goal of the fight, flight, freeze, and Fawn response is to decrease, end or evade danger and remain in a calm, relaxed state.
Signs of a fight response include:
- Tight jaw
- Grinding your teeth
- Urge to punch someone or something
- A feeling of intense anger
- Needing to stomp or kick
- Crying in anger
- A burning or knotted sensation in your stomach
- Attacking the source of danger
Flight is your body believes you cannot overcome the danger but can avoid it by running away, you’ll respond in a flight mode. A surge of hormones, like adrenaline, give your body the stamina to run from from danger longer than you typically could.
Signs of a flight response include:
- Feeling fidgety, tense, or trapped
- Constantly moving you legs, feet, and arms.
- A restless body
- A feeling of numbness in your arms and legs
- Dilated darting eyes
What is freeze or Fawn?
Freeze and Fawn are also stress responses but they don’t involve decisive actions.
Freeze. The stress response causes you to feel stuck in place. This happens when your body doesn’t think you can fight or get away from a danger,
Signs of the freeze response include:
- A sense of dread
- Pale skin
- Feeling stiff, heavy, cold, and numb
- A loud pounding heart
- A decreased heart rate
Fawn. This response is used after an unsuccessful fight, flight, or freeze attempt. The Fawn response occurs primarily in people who grew up in abusive families or situations.
Signs of a Fawn response include:
- Trying to be overly helpful
- Primary concern with making someone else happy
What Causes the Fawn Response?
The Fawn response often covers up distress and the damage someone is feeling inside due to trauma. It’s a common reaction to childhood abuse. The Fawn response is your body’s emotional reaction that involves becoming highly agreeable to the person abusing you.
The Fawn response can cause confusion and guilt if you have PTSD. Even if you’re being treated poorly, your instinct drives you to soothe over your abuser instead of resorting to the fight or flight response.
Signs of fawning behavior include:
- Over dependence on the opinions of others
- Little or no boundaries
- Vulnerability to narcissists
- Being easily controlled and manipulated
The Fawn response is believed to occur in people who grew up with narcissistic parents. They may have been neglected or rejected constantly as a child. Being helpful and agreeable was their only means of survival.