Fight, Flight, Fawn, and Freeze

Most people know the phrase “fight or flight response”. I never knew there were other reactions tied to how people handle situations. Two others that I have recently come to understand are fawn and freeze. There are four different reactions studied by psychologists in response to threat.

Recognition and realization are very important tools to me. When in a threatening situation I often cannot think clearly, my body just reacts and tries to fix the situation. Until I started talking about certain stressful or threatening events from my life with a professional, I realized that in each situation I might act differently depending on threat level, my age, and how clearly I can think in the moment. People are not usually tied to just one of the four responses but can use any number of them as their body tries to get them out of a stressful situation.

This is how I understand each response:

Fight: Acting aggressively, verbally, or physically

Flight: Physically removing yourself from the situation causing distress

Fawn: Comforting or being kind to try to avoid conflict

Freeze: Not being able to move or speak during situation


Understanding these reactions more clearly when I’m not in a stressful situation can help me to better prepare myself and understand my actions. This is what I believe to be one of the first steps to being able to make decisions and thinking more clearly during a stressful situation. If I am able to recognize what I am doing, then I can possibly change my actions or continue and get out of the stressful situation.

These different tools will be chosen, possibly subconsciously, depending on the situation, but talking about them will help me process the stressful situation and how I coped.

I would love to hear if other’s have also heard about these responses or if they are new to you! 

Have you heard about these responses before? What are your thoughts?

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