Fight Flight Freeze Fawn Test

Discover our Fight Flight Freeze Fawn Test. Understand trauma responses and learn to identify and manage stress and trauma effectively with our guide.

By Russell Tan on Jul 12, 2024.


Fact Checked by Nate Lacson.

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What is a trauma response?

A trauma response, or a stress response, is a psychological and physiological reaction that occurs as a result of experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event, like a car accident. These events can range from life-threatening situations like natural disasters, wars, and physical assaults to personal crises like emotional abuse or the sudden loss of a loved one. Trauma responses are the body and mind's ways of coping with the intense stress and disturbance caused by such events.

Trauma responses are driven by the sympathetic nervous system and the autonomic nervous system, which activate the body’s survival mode.

Trauma responses can manifest in various ways, including:

  • Emotional reactions: Fear, sadness, anger, guilt, or numbness.
  • Physical responses: Adrenal glands activate, breathing quickens, pupils dilate (or alternatively, tunnel vision), muscles tense, and increased heart rate for more blood circulation.
  • Behavioral changes: Avoidance of reminders of the trauma, increased alertness, or changes in sleep patterns.
  • Cognitive effects: Difficulty concentrating, memory problems, or constant thoughts about the trauma.

These stress responses are part of the normal healing and adaptation processes. Still, if they persist and affect a person’s daily functioning, they may develop into more chronic conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Treatment often involves therapy, medication, or a combination of both, tailored to the individual’s needs.

Fight Flight Freeze Fawn Test Template

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Fight Flight Freeze Fawn Test Example

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Types of trauma responses

Trauma responses refer to how individuals react to traumatic or highly stressful situations. These responses are are ingrained into human beings' survival instinct, and they are essentially survival mechanisms that the brain and body deploy to protect an individual from perceived harm.

They can manifest in several distinct forms, including the fight, flight, freeze, and fawn responses, each serving a different purpose in helping an individual cope with danger.

Fight response

The fight response is a common reaction to any real or perceived threat and danger. It is characterized by aggressive behavior or confrontational actions to defend oneself against a threat. This response can be immediate and intense, involving physical or verbal actions to counter or eliminate the threat.

Flight response

The flight response involves escaping or avoiding a perceived danger or threat. When a person goes into "flight mode," it can manifest as physically fleeing from the location or situation or more subtle forms like distancing oneself emotionally from relationships or responsibilities that feel threatening. It’s a survival mechanism to distance oneself from potential harm quickly.

Freeze response

Apart from the fight or flight response, people also freeze as a response. The freeze response is characterized by a temporary inability to act or respond when faced with acute danger or stress. It's like the body’s way of playing dead and can involve physical rigidity, a mental shutdown, or a sense of being stuck in place. This can happen when neither fighting nor fleeing seems like a viable option or when you feel unable to do either, and it is more common in overwhelming experiences.

Fawn response

The fawn response is less widely recognized but equally important. It involves responding to threats by trying to please or appease the source of danger to avoid conflict or further trauma. This can manifest as excessive compliance, being overly accommodating, or putting others' needs before one’s own to maintain safety in threatening environments.

What is a Fight Flight Freeze Fawn Test?

The Fight, Flight, Freeze, Fawn test is a psychological assessment designed to identify an individual's dominant responses to stress or trauma. These responses, rooted in our survival instincts, include fighting, fleeing, freezing, and fawning (appeasing). The test evaluates how a person typically reacts in threatening situations.

How is it scored, and how are the results interpreted?

The test is scored by evaluating responses to a series of scenarios or statements. Participants rate their likely behavior on a scale, and scores are then calculated for each response type. High scores in a particular area suggest that it is the individual's dominant response mechanism. The results help in understanding one's coping mechanisms and can guide personalized strategies for managing stress and trauma.

How does our Fight Flight Freeze Fawn Test template work?

Our Fight Flight Freeze Fawn Test template provides healthcare professionals with a structured approach to identifying and understanding their patients' dominant responses to stress and trauma. By following these steps, professionals can gain valuable insights into their patients' coping mechanisms and develop personalized strategies for managing stressful situations effectively.

Step 1: Access the template

Download the Fight Flight Freeze Fawn Test template by pressing the button below or access it via the Carepatron app. You can edit it if you open it from the app.

Step 2: Explain the template

Introduce the template to your patient, explaining its purpose and how it can help identify their dominant trauma responses. Ensure they understand each statement and the rating scale.

Step 3: Guide the patient through the test

Assist your patient in reading each statement in the test and indicate how much they agree or disagree with each statement when under stress or facing a threatening situation. Use the scale provided: 1 - Strongly disagree, 2 - Disagree, 3 - Neutral, 4 - Agree, 5 - Strongly agree.

Step 4: Calculate total scores and interpret

Calculate the total scores for each response type by adding the individual scores from the previous step. This will give you four separate scores representing the patient's tendencies towards fight, flight, freeze, and fawn responses.

Interpret the scores based on the following ranges:

  • High score (16-25): This response is the patient's dominant coping mechanism.
  • Moderate score (11-15): This response is somewhat common for the patient.
  • Low score (5-10): This response is less common for the patient.

Step 5: Reflect on the results

Discuss the results with your patient to help them understand their dominant trauma response and how it affects their behavior and coping strategies. This self-awareness can guide them in managing stress and trauma more effectively.

Step 6: Develop personalized strategies

Use the insights gained from the test results to develop personalized strategies for managing stress and trauma. Consider incorporating techniques such as mindfulness, relaxation exercises, and cognitive-behavioral strategies tailored to the dominant response. Professional support is highly recommended.

How to teach patients healthy responses to trauma

Teaching patients healthy responses to trauma involves a combination of education, skill-building, and therapeutic interventions. Educate patients about common trauma responses, helping them understand that reactions like fight, flight, freeze, and fawn are normal. Explain the impact of trauma on the brain and body to foster self-awareness and reduce self-blame. Use psychoeducation to empower patients with knowledge about how trauma affects them.

Skill-building is essential for helping patients develop healthy coping mechanisms. Introduce mindfulness and relaxation techniques to manage stress and anxiety. Encourage grounding exercises to help them stay present and reduce dissociation. Teach emotional regulation skills, such as identifying and expressing emotions safely, to help manage chronic stress. Incorporate cognitive-behavioral strategies to challenge and reframe negative thought patterns. Through consistent practice and support, patients can learn to respond to trauma in ways that promote healing and resilience.

What is the fight, flight, freeze, fawn theory?
What is the fight, flight, freeze, fawn theory?

Commonly asked questions

What is the fight, flight, freeze, fawn theory?

The fight, flight, freeze, fawn theory describes the four primary survival responses to stress or trauma. These instinctive reactions are mechanisms developed to cope with perceived threats: fight (confronting the threat), flight (escaping the threat), freeze (becoming immobile), and fawn (pleasing to avoid conflict).

What trauma response is fawn?

The fawn trauma response involves trying to appease or please the threat to avoid conflict and ensure safety. It manifests as excessive compliance, people-pleasing, and prioritizing others' needs over one's own in stressful situations.

What is the shutdown response to trauma?

The shutdown response to trauma, often associated with the freeze response, involves becoming immobile or unresponsive when faced with extreme stress or danger. This can include physical rigidity, a mental shutdown, or a sense of numbness and detachment from the situation.

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