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Fawn: A New Stress Response Besides Fight, Flight, And Freeze

During an acute stress response, your body undergoes a variety of reactions. Some of these responses happen with any kind of stress response, while others are only seen with certain responses. A stress response can include the following components:

  1. The heart rate and blood pressure rise.
  2. Skin that is pale or flushed
  3. Temporary impairment of the blunt pain response
  4. Pupils dilated

Whether you are in physical or psychological danger, your body will initiate a stress response. This reaction begins in your amygdala, the part of your brain responsible for fear.

The amygdala sends signals to the hypothalamus, which stimulates the autonomic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system then stimulates your adrenal glands, causing adrenaline and noradrenaline hormones to be released.

Fight or flight is a well-known stress response that occurs when hormones in your body cause you to either stay and fight or run and flee danger. If your body believes it is in danger, your system will work to keep you alive.

The three most basic stress responses are fight, flight, and freeze. They represent your body’s reaction to danger. Fawn is the fourth stress response discovered later.

Fight is your body’s aggressive response to any perceived threat.

Flight indicates that your body is urging you to flee from danger. Freeze is the inability of your body to move or act in response to a threat.

Your brain is preparing for a physical response when in fight or flight mode.


When your body senses danger and believes it can overcome the threat, it will go into fight mode. Your brain sends signals to your body in order to prepare it for the physical demands of fighting.

The following are signs of a fight response:

  • Jaw clenched
  • Clenching your teeth
  • Compulsion to punch something or someone
  • Strong sense of rage
  • Must stomp or kick
  • Anger-fueled sobbing
  • A burning or knotted sensation in your stomach Attempting to attack the source of the danger


If your body believes you can’t overcome the threat but can avoid it by fleeing, you’ll go into flight mode. A surge of hormones, such as adrenaline, gives your body the stamina to run away from danger for longer than usual.

Flight response symptoms include:

  1. Feeling antsy, tense, or trapped
  2. Moving your legs, feet, and arms all the time
  3. The body is restless
  4. You have numbness in your arms and legs.
  5. Dilated, darting pupils

Stress responses that do not involve decisive actions include freeze and fawn.


This stress response causes you to feel trapped. This response occurs when your body does not believe you are capable of fighting or fleeing.

The following are symptoms of the freeze response:

  1. Fearful feeling
  2. Stiffness, heaviness, coldness, and numbness
  3. Heart pounding loudly
  4. Heart rate reduction

What Is the Fawn Reaction?

This response occurred following a failed fight, flight, or freeze attempt. The fawn response is most common in people who grew up in abusive homes or situations.

The fawn response frequently masks internal distress and damage caused by trauma. Childhood abuse often results in fawning. The fawn response is your body’s emotional reaction in which you become extremely agreeable to the person who is abusing you.

If you have PTSD, the fawn response can cause confusion and guilt. Even if you are being abused, your instinct is to soothe your abuser rather than resorting to the flight or fight response.

Fawning behavior has the following characteristics:

  1. Rreliance on the opinions of others
  2. Narcissist vulnerability
  3. Being easily manipulated and controlled

The fawn response is thought to occur in children of narcissistic parents. As a child, you may have been constantly neglected or rejected. The only way to survive was to be helpful and agreeable.

The problem with the fawn response is that it can result in codependent adults and a loss of identity.

Stress management is an essential component of overall health improvement. Identifying your psychical, emotional, and behavioral stress signs can assist you in analyzing and working to overcome them. This will assist you in determining whether you are truly under attack or if your nervous system is overreacting.

If stress is affecting your quality of life, consult your doctor. They may suggest therapy, medication, or other stress-reduction techniques. Stress management is a daily struggle that cannot be solved with a quick fix.

You can use these techniques to help you stay in the present moment and overcome your stress response.

  1. Concentrating on your surroundings
  2. Reciting poetry, songs, or affirmations
  3. Having fun with the alphabet game
  4. Using safety statements to remind yourself that you are safe
  5. Mental mathematic calculations
  6. Visualize yourself overcoming your fears.
  7. Breathe and concentrate on your speed and steadiness.
  8. Touching or gripping an object tightly
  9. Tensing your body and focusing on slowly releasing it from your forehead to your toes
  10. Thinking about and relaxing in your happy place
  11. Treating yourself to something relaxing or enjoyable
  12. Repitition of coping statements
  13. Positive affirmations should be spoken.
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