Collapse is a state of hypo-arousal. When a person begins to experience this response, they may not be able to speak, and they feel detached or disconnected from their body. Their heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature lower.
Freeze – Feeling stuck in a certain part of the body, feeling cold or numb, physical stiffness or heaviness of limbs, decreased heart-rate, restricted breathing or holding of the breath, a sense of dread or foreboding.
Freeze is when neither fighting or flighting is a response, feeling frozen is the choice instead. Lastly, Collapse is when the response is to comply with threat.
Fight, flight, freeze, flop, friend
All five responses are our bodies' automatic ways of protecting us from further harm and surviving a dangerous situation: Fight: physically fighting, pushing, struggling, and fighting verbally e.g. saying 'no'.
The mental health community broadly recognizes four types of trauma responses:
The fawn response, a term coined by therapist Pete Walker, describes (often unconscious) behavior that aims to please, appease, and pacify the threat in an effort to keep yourself safe from further harm.
Thus defining what is now called fight, flight, freeze, and fawn: Fight: facing any perceived threat aggressively. Flight: running away from the danger. Freeze: unable to move or act against a threat. Fawn: immediately acting to try to please to avoid any conflict.
The Three F's: Fight Flight or Freeze.
In evolutionary psychology, people often speak of the four Fs which are said to be the four basic and most primal drives that animals are evolutionarily adapted to have, follow, and achieve: fighting, fleeing, feeding and fornicating.
What is the fawn response? Fawning is a strategy we unconsciously learn to get ourselves out of trouble, as a result of interacting with a difficult person who's likely a toxic personality type. It's bending over backward to please someone, not to be nice or considerate but rather as a response rooted in trauma.
That's what PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) is—our body's overreaction to a small response, and either stuck in fight and flight or shut down. People who experience trauma and the shutdown response usually feel shame around their inability to act, when their body did not move.
Shutdown dissociation includes partial or complete functional sensory deafferentiation, classified as negative dissociative symptoms (see Nijenhuis, 2014; Van Der Hart et al., 2004). The Shut-D focuses exclusively on symptoms according to the evolutionary-based concept of shutdown dissociative responding.
In your daily life, you may experience moments of these states before your body self regulates and brings you back into a place of calm. However, if you are under chronic stress or have experienced trauma, you can get stuck in sympathetic fight or flight or dorsal vagal freeze and fold.
The bottom line. Your body's fight-flight-freeze response is triggered by psychological fears. It's a built-in defense mechanism that causes physiological changes, like rapid heart rate and reduced perception of pain. This enables you to quickly protect yourself from a perceived threat.
Dissociation is an adaptive response to threat and is a form of “freezing”. It is a strategy that is often used when the option of fighting or running (fleeing) is not an option.
In evolutionary psychology, people often speak of the four Fs which are said to be the four basic and most primal drives (motivations or instincts) that animals (including humans) are evolutionarily adapted to have, follow, and achieve: fighting, fleeing, feeding and sex.
Crying during an argument is actually a response to feeling threatened, Klow says. People who instinctively react this way feel overwhelmed by strong emotion during a conflict and may even have a fear of arguing, Dr. Durvasula says.
The fawn response is “a response to a threat by becoming more appealing to the threat,” wrote licensed psychotherapist Pete Walker, MA, a marriage family therapist who is credited with coining the term fawning, in his book “Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving.”
The 'fawn' response is an instinctual response associated with a need to avoid conflict and trauma via appeasing behaviors. For children, fawning behaviors can be a maladaptive survival or coping response which developed as a means of coping with a non-nurturing or abusive parent.
Just to review, fawning refers to a trauma response in which a person reverts to people-pleasing to diffuse conflict and reestablish a sense of safety. It was first coined by Pete Walker, who wrote about this mechanism pretty brilliantly in his book “Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving.”
The fight or flight response is an automatic physiological reaction to an event that is perceived as stressful or frightening. The perception of threat activates the sympathetic nervous system and triggers an acute stress response that prepares the body to fight or flee.
(fite … flite SIN-drome) A group of changes that occur in the body to help a person fight or take flight in stressful or dangerous situations. This is the body's way of helping to protect itself from possible harm. During fight or flight, certain hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, are released into the blood.
It's a maladaptive way of creating safety in our connections with others by essentially mirroring the imagined expectations and desires of other people. Often times, it stems from traumatic experiences early on in life, as I described in last month's article.
The difference between CPTSD and PTSD is that PTSD usually occurs after a single traumatic event, while CPTSD is associated with repeated trauma. Events that can lead to PTSD include a serious accident, a sexual assault, or a traumatic childbirth experience, such as losing a baby.