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As we come to a close on the different trauma responses, have you recognized any hidden trauma or triggers when we discussed fight, flight or freeze? If not, see if you find yourself in the last trauma response we will discuss today - fawn.

Fawning refers to consistently abandoning your own needs to serve others to avoid conflict, criticism, or disapproval. Fawning is also called the “please and appease” response and is associated with people-pleasing and codependency.

People with the fawn response usually exhibit the following behaviors:

  • A perpetual inability to say ‘no’ even when the request is an inconvenience

  • Having a difficult time standing up for yourself

  • Repressing your own needs for the sake of making everyone around you happy

  • Feeling responsible for the reactions of other people

  • Feeling as though you don’t have your own identity

  • Constantly looking to others to see how you’re supposed to feel in a relationship or a situation

  • Constant feelings of guilt

Those with the fawn trauma response try to get ahead of the problem by rushing to please the abuser in order to avoid conflict. That means they agree with everything that’s being said, do things they know will get approval and set aside their personal feelings in order to avoid abuse. Eventually, this can become a normal behavioral pattern that gets carried into adulthood.

Below are 4 ways to cope with the fawn trauma response:

1. Seek therapy. Going to a therapist is the fastest way to learn about behavioral patterns that you may not be aware of. A therapist can also help you with all the anxiety that comes with unlearning those old coping mechanisms you developed in childhood.

2. Set boundaries. One of the biggest issues for people with fawn trauma response is that they don’t really know how to set boundaries. When your default is to appease everyone around you, it can be hard to set a hard line without feeling guilty. So, it's a good suggestion to start small. Someone mispronounces your name? Correct them. Your friends are pressuring you to go to happy hour? Say no. Eventually, those small wins will give you the confidence to tackle bigger issues.

3. Stop overexplaining. When you are first learning to set boundaries for yourself, the natural inclination is to apologize and overcompensate in order to make sure everyone knows you aren't blowing them off. However, in the words of author Megan LeBoutillier, “‘No’ is a complete sentence.” And you don’t need to explain yourself further than that.

4. Learn to delegate. Part of the fawn trauma response is feeling like you have to handle every task and spearhead every project in order to be a valuable player on the team. At family gatherings, you may also feel a lot of pressure to cater to everyone else’s needs (especially if this is what you’ve always done in the past). It's ok to let others carry some of the weight. I give you permission to DO LESS.


If you think you may be in an abusive relationship, help is available right now. If you’re in the United States, you can contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline for free, confidential service 24/7.

  • Visit the National Domestic Violence Hotline website.

  • Call the hotline for one-on-one help at 800-799-SAFE (7233).

  • Text “START” to 88788.

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