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Trauma Response: Fawn?

Fawn response is a trauma response that has been identified in recent years by researchers and mental health professionals as an adaptive coping mechanism in response to trauma (Herman, 1992; Van der Kolk, 2014). It is often seen in individuals who have experienced repeated or prolonged trauma, such as childhood abuse or neglect.

The fawn response involves people becoming excessively focused on pleasing others in order to avoid conflict or danger. People who exhibit a fawn response may become overly compliant, self-sacrificing, and eager to please, often at the expense of their own needs and desires. They may also struggle with setting boundaries and standing up for themselves.

One study found that the fawn response was associated with higher levels of anxiety, depression, and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms in individuals who had experienced childhood abuse (Frewen et al., 2014). The study also found that individuals who exhibited the fawn response had greater difficulty regulating their emotions, and were more likely to experience feelings of shame and guilt.

Another study found that the fawn response was more common in women who had experienced sexual abuse than in women who had not experienced sexual abuse (Hartman et al., 2013). The study also found that the fawn response was associated with higher levels of PTSD symptoms in women who had experienced sexual abuse.

The fawn response is thought to be a way for individuals to increase their chances of survival in dangerous or threatening situations. By becoming overly compliant and self-sacrificing, they may be able to avoid conflict and minimize the risk of harm. However, the fawn response can also lead to difficulties in forming healthy relationships, and can prevent individuals from expressing their true needs and desires.

Treatment for fawn response may involve helping individuals to recognize and challenge the patterns of behavior that have developed in response to trauma. This can involve learning to set boundaries and communicate assertively, as well as developing skills for emotional regulation and self-care.

It is important to note that not all individuals who experience trauma will exhibit the fawn response, and that trauma responses can vary widely from person to person. However, understanding the fawn response can help mental health professionals to better recognize and treat the complex effects of trauma on individuals.

trauma response


Frewen, P. A., Lanius, R. A., Trauma, J. O. T. I. T. N. (2014). Healing the traumatized self: Consciousness, neuroscience, treatment. WW Norton & Company.

Hartman, C. A., Rief, W., & Hiller, W. (2013). It was not my choice to be traumatised like this’: adult female survivors’ experiences of psychological trauma, coping and psychiatric care. Journal of psychiatric and mental health nursing, 20(1), 70-78.

Herman, J. L. (1992). Complex PTSD: A syndrome in survivors of prolonged and repeated trauma. Journal of traumatic stress, 5(3), 377-391.

Van der Kolk, B. A. (2014). The body keeps the score: Brain, mind, and body in the healing of trauma. Penguin Books.

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