Way More Than Fight or Flight: The Six Trauma Responses and What They Mean

Woman Dealing with Mental Trauma

Way More Than Fight or Flight: The Six Trauma Responses and What They Mean

When we think of trauma responses, our minds often jump to the fight-or-flight responses. However, trauma affects people in various ways, and there are more trauma responses. Trauma should always be addressed in therapy, and because trauma is a life-altering experience, we understand its intricacies and are here to help. There are several responses to trauma that a person can experience, and by familiarizing yourself with these responses, you can gain more self-awareness for your mental health. 

The Six Trauma Responses and How They Impact The Brain

While there are six trauma responses, the most common one people remember are the fight or flight response. Fight and flight are the two most common reactions to threats in animals and are considered easy to describe when we think of trauma responses. However, the human brain is a complex mechanism of responses, and these six responses can often come up in various situations, and these trauma responses include:

  • The Fight Response: The fight response is characterized by the inclination to confront and resist the source of trauma, often showing responses of anger, aggression, and defiance to protect themselves and regain control.
  • The Flight Response: The flight response manifests as a desire to avoid or escape the traumatic experience, withdrawing and isolating themselves from the behaviors and actions of those around them to seek safety. 
  • The Freeze Response: The freeze response causes the person to become immobilized, feeling stuck or paralyzed. These responses are often triggered by situations where the person doesn’t see any possibility of escaping. 
  • The Fawn Response: The fawn response often causes the person to appease and please others, even at their own expense. Boundaries and needs of the person are often pushed to the side as the person engages with people-pleasing behaviors, often seeking validation to protect themselves from harm. 
  • The “Fine” Response: The fine response refers to self-denial in the face of trauma. This occurs when someone doesn’t believe that they’re traumatized by specific people or events and believe they can handle the threats against them as a way to negate their pain or trauma. 
  • The Faint Response: The faint response is exactly as it sounds – the person faints as a response to a traumatic event or sight. Technically called vasovagal syncope, your heart rate plummets, and the brain that controls your heart rate starts giving up. This response can often be seen in those who fear the sight of blood.

It’s important to recognize that these trauma responses are not mutually exclusive and can occur in combination depending on the situation and the person’s unique experience. It’s important to seek professional help for your trauma, seek support from people who can support you, and start building ways to recognize and control those responses with coping skills. 

Visit Prestige Mental Health Today For Your First Session!

If you or a loved one is experiencing trauma responses and seeking support, contact Dr. April Sullivan at Prestige Mental Health. Our dedicated professionals in Las Vegas, NV, are committed to providing trauma-informed care and helping individuals journey to healing and recovery. Understanding trauma responses is the first step toward creating a safe and supportive environment for those impacted by trauma, so call us at (702) 945-2864 to learn more!

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April is the founder of Prestige Mental Health and is a board certified psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP-BC) who is qualified to practice primary care and psychiatry. She is passionate about providing quality, compassionate, and comprehensive mental health services to children, adolescents, and adults. April specializes in psychiatric illnesses including but not limited to depression, anxiety, ADD/ADHD, PTSD/trauma, bipolar, and schizophrenia.