The Four Trauma Responses: Flight

Experiencing trauma, in particular repeated trauma forces people to develop certain responses in order to cope with their horrific experiences.  Many people waver between two or even more of the four trauma responses, but usually people use one much more than others. 

Some people favor the flight trauma response over the other three options.  This basically means their instinct during a traumatic event is to do anything they can to avoid the trauma.  If they can run away, they will.  During a traumatic event, someone who favors the flight trauma response but cannot escape will be pretty easy to identify.  They are clearly anxious, which means their breathing is shallow & rapid.  They may be restless, and this shows by tapping their feet or fingers.  Their eyes dart around, looking for a means of escape.

In situations where traumatic experiences are repeated, such as in cases of child abuse, some long term problems develop from using this trauma response over & over again.  Flight is used as a coping mechanism, & it manifests in many ways.  Workaholism, perfectionistic ways, micromanaging others, the need to keep busy constantly, obsession with video games, endlessly surfing through channels or social media, & other avoidance type behaviors can be signs of someone who has experienced the flight trauma response regularly. These behaviors are designed to keep someone from thinking about past trauma.  There are other signs too, such as anxiety disorders, constant worrying, inability to relax, hyper-activity & being overly analytical.

Like other trauma responses, it is understandable a person could react this way to trauma & behave this way after repeated triggers of their flight response.  That doesn’t make the behavior healthy, however.  Being constantly on the go whether it is mentally or physically takes a toll on a person’s mental & physical health.  Changes need to be made & they can be!

As always I recommend prayer to start.  Ask God to guide you, to help you to behave in a healthier way & anything else you can think of.

Look at your life.  What is unhealthy?  Are you constantly working eighty hour workweeks?  Spending every free moment playing video games?  Do you feel as if you must stay busy every waking moment?  These are some examples of red flags.  It also may help to ask those people who are closest to you for their thoughts as well. 

Once you have identified the problem areas in your life, then figure out a plan on how to make appropriate changes.  Cut back on hours spent at work if at all possible, or find another job.  Set times for certain activities & stick to the limits.

Lastly, it will help you tremendously to finally face what you have been avoiding.  I know it’s hard!  I know it’s scary!  I also know that until you do this & focus on healing & becoming healthier, any changes you make most likely will be temporary.  Emotions demand to be dealt with, & if they aren’t dealt with in a healthy way, they will manifest in unhealthy ways.  You’re going to suffer from the pain of the trauma or of the pain of the unhealthy manifestations of your emotions.  Why not make the pain count & focus on your healing?  At least that way, the pain will end & you will be much happier & healthier for it. 

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Filed under Abuse and the Healing Journey, Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Mental Health, Narcissism

One response to “The Four Trauma Responses: Flight

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