The 4 Types of Stress Responses, Part 2

Oct 26, 2021Stress Responses

Dr. Gertrise Thomas, ND.

Dr. Gertrise Thomas, ND.

Whole You with Dr. Ge

I help people of color create wellness plans to shift the mind and body’s stress responses. The goal is to go from triggers to growth and overall health.

Last time, we discussed the most commonly known Stress Responses, Fight and Flight. Today we talk about the two most recently identified responses and ways that you can identify them.

The Freeze Response

The freeze response has been described as a mental clashing of the fight and flight responses and an intermediate response between perceiving a threat and deciding which of the other three responses (fight, flight, fawn) to enact. It is thought that this response results from the nervous system being overwhelmed, which causes an inability to decide on other responses.

If freeze is a part of your stress response, you may feel that you have little chance of escaping or winning a fight. You may feel stuck, and your primary mode of protection is dissociation. The subconscious thought here is if you don’t do anything, the threat (stressor) won’t hurt you. In times of stress, you may appear calm but are more accurately described as numb. You may feel immobilized emotionally and physically. This can present itself in a literal inability to move, vocal inhibition, and indecisiveness. Escapism behavior is also typical in the freeze stress response type. The idea is to dissociate from the things that are causing threats or stress. You may feel detached from reality and have an inability to be present during times of stress.

Mindfulness practices and meditation may help manage stress in those that have freeze as a stress response. When used healthily, the freeze response can give you time to appropriately respond to stressors instead of acting impulsively.

The Fawn Response

The fawn stress response is one of the newer stress/trauma types that have been identified. There is still research being done on this stress response, and therefore, there is not as much information on it versus other response types. Those who identify with the fawn response are perceived as people-pleasers, and their primary mode of protection is placation. The subconscious thought here is if you appease others, you will be safe from conflict or pain.

If fawn is one of your stress responses, you may have difficulty setting boundaries and saying no. You may notice that you experience a level of self-neglect. This stress response often results in self-sacrificing behavior, including taking on undue blame. Over apologizing, feeling misunderstood, and feeling resentment from unexpressed emotions can all be seen in the fawn response type. You may also feel unseen or invisible at times and have difficulty presenting your authentic self.

Practicing assertiveness, setting boundaries, and other forms of mental self-care are beneficial for those that identify with the fawn response.

Dr. Gertrise Thomas, ND.

Dr. Gertrise Thomas, ND.

Whole You with Dr. Ge

I help people of color create wellness plans to shift the mind and body’s stress responses. The goal is to go from triggers to growth and overall health.

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