6 Types Of People You Probably Didn't Know Are Actually Stuck In A Trauma Response

Photo: Vika Glitter / Pexels
woman stressed

Our bodies tend to react in ways we instinctively believe will protect us when we experience trauma. In the past, this instinct was usually referred to as "fight, flight, or freeze."

However, did you know that there was a fourth response — fawning — you've probably never heard of?

What are trauma responses?

Our bodies react differently when we go through trauma, but generally we respond in one of four ways: fight, flight, freeze, or fawn.

According to Taylor Martin and Dr. Poonam Sachdev, “The fight response is your body’s way of facing any perceived threat aggressively.”

In flight mode, we feel that urge to run away from danger. A freeze response is when we can't move or react to the threat in front of us.

Finally, we have the fawn response, which. Martin and Sachev say is "when we please others to dodge conflict."

Signs you are fawning include being overly agreeable, overly helpful, and trying too hard to make others happy.

Since fawning isn't well-known compared to its counterparts, people who have this response may not even be aware of what is happening. C-PTSD therapist Elizabeth Kupferman recently shared a post on Instagram in which she named some labels people are often given that are actually signs of a fawn response.

RELATED: Experts Share 4 Subtle Signs You're Still Living With Trauma

6 Types Of People Who Get Labeled By A Fawning Trauma Response

1. The teacher's pet

Were you the type to raise your hand during class, itching to answer every question correctly? Or were you the student who reminded the teacher of the homework assignment the rest of us wanted to avoid?

Understandably, teacher's pets can be infuriating from the outside. After all, why go out of your way to please people in the first place? But underneath the exterior, people pleasers may be experiencing a trauma response.

Gina Ryder and clinical psychologist Dr. Karin Gepp explain, “Fawn types seek safety by merging with the wishes, needs, and demands of others."

Teacher's pets likely grew up in a stressful environment in which they had to adapt to cope. This is why from the outside they constantly put on a cheery performance.

If you struggle with people-pleasing, always validate your experiences. Tell yourself, "I will be patient with myself and I will value myself regardless of what others say," writes Ryder and Gepp. These positive thoughts manifest into better actions which can help over time.

It is also suggested to put yourself and your desires first. Pursue what makes you happy and engage in your hobbies. Write down what you adore about yourself outside of what others think.

2. The selfless one

When you've fawned for so long, you tend to forget who you are. After all, your identity and life are wrapped in how others perceive you, so you must now start from scratch.



Though the journey to self-discovery is intimidating it doesn't have to be hard.

Crystal Raypole and clinical psychologist Alex Klein write that self-discovery is looking into your life and observing what you are missing. However, once you figure that out the rest is easy.

Take active steps to accomplish those desires and try new things. Journal your progress and think about what it is you want to be.

RELATED: I Love Being Alone — But It’s A Trauma Response

3. The "ask her, she’ll do it!" type

Having yourself signed up for every activity is tiring, to say the least. But as a fawner, you probably have a difficult time saying no.

Fawners tend to have non-existent boundaries which makes it easier for people to take advantage of them. Whether it's baking cookies or loaning money, fawners are always doing things that go against their desires.

4. The apologizer

Over-apologizing can start from a young age and can be incredibly hard to break once the habit is cemented.



According to licensed therapist Emma McAdam, “Over-apologizing has also been found to be associated with mental health conditions. Some of which include depression, trauma, anxiety, perfectionism, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.”

If you want to break this bad habit, here are a few things you can do:

  • Don’t respond right away. Take time to think and question if it's your fault.
  • Rephrase what you say. McAdam writes, that instead of saying "I'm sorry," you can say, "Thank you for your patience."
  • Be assertive.
  • Remind yourself of your worthiness.

RELATED: 5 Signs You're Stuck In Functional Freeze Mode

5. The hero

If you fawn, then you're probably known as the Dr. Phill of your friend group. Every problem is brought to you and you're expected to fix it. Though this seems like a kind gesture, it can easily lead to addiction.

According to the Harvard Business Review, “Behavioral experts agree that 'helping,' does indeed have the potential to become an addiction. When we help others, our brain emits three chemicals, often referred to as the happiness trifecta.”

Chemicals like serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin are constantly released, leading to addiction down the road. This form of addiction is dangerous as it can make us depend on others to help us fulfill our purpose.

Avoid this by viewing yourself as an equal to that person. Commit to wanting them to succeed as much as they want to succeed. Let them work through their problems and understand that you can't save everyone — neither should you.

Constantly saving others can lead to dependability issues as your relationship progresses.

"Let them learn the consequences of their actions — as hard as it may be," states the Harvard Business Review.

6. The selfish gaslighter

You were probably told that not considering other's feelings was being selfish. However, the term selfishness has been used as a means to control rather than a means of consideration.

Putting yourself first does not make someone bad. If you are caught in a toxic relationship, is it bad to leave for your well-being? No, which brings us to our next point — selfishness isn't always a bad thing.

Sometimes selfishness is necessary to ensure your happiness and success. In turn, your happiness can be used to inspire and motivate those around you.

By understanding the different trauma responses we engage in, we can better understand and control them.

RELATED: 21 People With Difficult Childhoods Share Something They Do Now That Is A Direct Result Of Their Trauma

Marielisa Reyes is a writer with a bachelor's degree in psychology who covers self-help, relationships, career, and family topics.