What Is a Trauma Response
What Is a Trauma Response

Sometimes, recognizing the signs of trauma is relatively straightforward. But many times, trauma in others can be inconspicuous. Your friend or loved one who seems “fine” may actually be struggling internally and exhibiting trauma response signs you are unaware of. 

The reality of it is that someone’s response to trauma may not always be noticeable to you or even them. While there are psychological, stress-based trauma responses, there are also additional social responses you may not associate as being responses to trauma. 

It’s crucial to understand what to look for in others regarding trauma responses because it’s then that you can provide the support they need and potentially get them help to work through their trauma-related struggles. 

Trauma Therapy in San Diego

What Exactly Is a Trauma Response?

To put it simply, a trauma response is how someone reacts to traumatic experiences both immediately in the future. Trauma responses can manifest emotionally, psychologically, and behaviorally, serving as coping mechanisms for dealing with the overwhelming effects of trauma. 

Trauma itself is essentially an injury that occurs within – a mental injury. Even if your loved one doesn’t realize their body is subconsciously trying to protect them from future trauma by exhibiting various trauma responses, it’s likely happening. Because trauma responses occur as a way to ensure physical and emotional safety, they often interfere with life. 

That’s why paying attention to others’ actions and behaviors is vital. They may be exhibiting a response to trauma that is going unnoticed and should be addressed.

The Four “F’s” of Trauma Response (And a Couple More)

There are four types of responses to trauma commonly referred to as the four primary adaptive responses when people face dangerous or threatening situations. You’ve likely heard of your body’s natural “fight-or-flight” reaction to danger. Well, those are two of the four F’s. Here are the four most recognized trauma responses:

The fight trauma response


The fight trauma response occurs when you have a reactive and often aggressive approach to dealing with threats or stressors. You may become confrontational, argumentative, or hostile when you feel threatened or overwhelmed. To recognize this in others, you may notice them exhibiting outward aggression or a tendency to escalate conflicts to assert control or protect themselves. 


When facing a perceived threat or danger, the flight trauma response may kick in, making you feel a tremendous desire to escape or avoid the situation. You may notice someone exhibiting a strong urge to flee or withdraw from stressful situations, avoid triggering environments, run away from conflict, or seek distraction through activities like excessive work or substance use.


The freeze response to trauma involves a state of immobilization or shutdown in response to overwhelming stress or trauma. You may notice someone exhibiting the

freeze response when they become unable to act in moments of crisis. They may also appear emotionally numb and dissociated from their surroundings and emotions, unable to move forward. 


The final “F” of the four Fs in trauma response is “fawn,” when you seek to appease or please others to avoid conflict or gain acceptance and safety. To notice this in others, look for them, always prioritizing the needs and desires of others above their own at the expense of their own well-being. They may exhibit people-pleasing behaviors be overly accommodating, submissive, or compliant in relationships to avoid rejection or abandonment. 

While these four Fs are the most widely recognized, there are also two more Fs to consider:


The “fine” trauma manifests as a denial that the trauma ever happened. When you notice this in others, you’ll see that they don’t want to believe they were ever traumatized and likely tell you they can handle whatever happened to them “just fine.” While this may not seem detrimental, it likely causes them additional stress and harm since experiencing grief is a necessary part of the healing journey. 

trauma manifests


This response to trauma is easy to recognize because it’s exactly what it sounds like – faiting in response to a traumatic event. Fainting after experiencing trauma is called vasovagal syncope and occurs when the part of your brain responsible for regulating your heart rate essentially “gives up,” causing your heart rate to plummet. 

Sometimes, it can be challenging to recognize trauma responses. Here are some ways the four (or even six) Fs may show up in others:

  • shutting down
  • people-pleasing
  • walking away
  • getting defensive
  • playing the victim
  • emotional numbness
  • keeping busy
  • dissociation
  • playing the persecutor
  • hyper-independence

The Long-Term Effects of Trauma on Mental Health

The impact of trauma on mental health is not limited to immediate trauma responses. Trauma can have long-lasting effects that persist for years or even a lifetime if left untreated. One common long-term impact of trauma is developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 

Trauma on Mental Health

Intrusive thoughts, nightmares, flashbacks, and persistent avoidance of trauma-related stimuli characterize PTSD. It can significantly impair your quality of life and make it difficult to maintain relationships, hold a job, or engage in daily activities.

Trauma can also increase the risk of developing other mental health disorders like depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and eating disorders. These co-occurring conditions often require comprehensive PTSD treatment in San Diego or wherever you’re located to address the complex interplay between trauma and mental health. 

Our Experts at BOLD Health Can Help You or Your Loved One Through Trauma Therapy in San Diego

If you have someone in your life who exhibits any of the above responses to trauma, and you notice, it’s time to get them the help they need. While they may tell you they are “perfectly fine,” if they have unaddressed trauma in their past, talk to them about your concerns. 

Let them know about the trauma responses you’ve noticed in them and that you’re there to support them, whatever they decide. Even speaking to your friend or loved one about your concern could help them realize that they may need help, after all. 

BOLD Health

At BOLD Health, we take a holistic approach to trauma therapy and PTSD treatment in San Diego. We’ll take the time to genuinely understand the struggles you or your loved one faces on a daily basis and what makes you who you are. By doing this, we can curate a treatment plan tailored specifically to your needs or the needs of your friend or family member.

Contact us to learn more about our options for trauma therapy in San Diego and how we can help you or someone you care about work through their challenges stemming from trauma to live a more fulfilling life. 

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