Peer support subsequent to trauma contributes to full recovery

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) -- including complex trauma (cPTSD) -- is debilitating, breaking down the body through anxiety and stress, and it poses a significant suicide risk in sufferers. MyPTSD seeks to help and inform those who are directly or indirectly affected by these conditions through peer-to-peer support and educational resources.

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Fight Or Flight Response

Discussion in 'Discussion' started by JimmyJames902, Jan 11, 2010.

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  1. JimmyJames902

    JimmyJames902 Member

    I want to ask, how common is the "flight" response for PTSD sufferers ??

    The reason I ask is that my symptoms/behaviours are all rooted in the "flight" response, never the "fight" response. Is this common or is it rare ??

    I think my flight-response goes back to the original traumatic event of my childhood. 5 year-olds can't defend themselves against an abusive parent -- I would try to get up and walk out of the room when my dad would be screaming at me for a long time, but whenever I tried to leave the room my dad would say something like, "Where do you think you're going, I'm not done with you yet."

    I quickly learned that if I spoke-up for myself and asked my dad to leave me alone, that would make things even worse, with him yelling even louder and longer. So I learned to shut-up and absorb all the verbal Abuse he would heap on me and wait for him to tire himself out. This approach would make dad's "brow-beating sessions" a bit shorter in duration. In a way, I think that I was conditioned to absorb tremendous amounts of psychological and verbal abuse. But sadly, the coping strategies of a 5 year-old child don't work in adulthood.

    I feel like I'm rambling, and my head is spinning a bit, so I'll just leave it there for now.

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  3. growingpains

    growingpains Active Member

    I had the same response as a child. When I would try to flee to my room my door was taken off the hinges and I would get beaten even more and the screaming and such as well. When under a tremendous amount of stress I come off as "flighty", just meeting people when I absolutely have to, do what I need to do, and "run" away. Otherwise, I isolate. I would guess that this is quite normal, it just is a personal question of how you as an individual react due to your history and psychological make up. It is good to ramble and get stuff out.
  4. useless

    useless Member

    I am more the opposite. My instinct tells me to fight but fortunately my brain has managed to stay in control and allow me to "flight", actually avoid, negative situations.

    As for the comment about your dad "tire himself out" that is a good observation. Anger can be exhausting!!
  5. dust

    dust Well-Known Member

    I am a freezer (yeah, I'm cuboid and stand in the corner) rather than a fighter or a flee-er. Recently I have been tapping into my anger more, and feel a little bit more fighty, which is very positive. Like growingpains, the way I flee is by withdrawing and not taking part, or going somewhere and then always leaving early.

    Bedbug likes this.
  6. Grama-Herc

    Grama-Herc I'm a VIP

    I think you will find the majority of the people here are the "flight" types. I know I am. I also isolate and avoid, like many others here do. If I stay home, then I don't have to deal with any stressors. It is just to hard to be so scared all the time.
  7. growingpains

    growingpains Active Member

    The fight types with PTSD go to bars and pick fights and the flee-ers stay in the safety of their home and log into the PTSD forum.:eek:ccasion:
    jocko and onesie like this.
  8. useless

    useless Member

    That is not true, or funny.
  9. growingpains

    growingpains Active Member

    I am sorry, I was just trying to be funny. I did not mean to offend anyone or hurt anyone's feelings.
  10. onebravegirl

    onebravegirl Well-Known Member

    Sometimes this topic can be a bit triggering. and when one person wants to joke, another may not.
    I am sure that Growing pains was in NO way wanting to make light of this thread.
    And I have to say that I am a fighter, always have been. And I did go to bars and pick fights.
    Not wise.
    Now I stay at home on the PTSD forum!

    I think I fought for so long because I wnted to be the Justice that I thought the world lacked. I was raised to fight everything-even my school teachers.
    I had no repect for authority-still have trouble with this sometimes.
    It took being raped, beaten, starved and sold to help me see that if you want to pick fights and act tough, you better keep in mind that there is always going to be someone Way meaner out there, looking for someone just like yourself to put into place.
    There is a time for fleeing, and there is a time for fighting, and there is a time for Surviving and a time for Healing too.
  11. JimmyJames902

    JimmyJames902 Member

    Thank you for your generous responses to my question -- it is much appreciated.

    I certainly understand the "freeze" response; I call it, "deer-in-the-headlights." The hinges on my door were never removed, thank goodness, but my mom and dad's voices were so loud, you could hear them fighting two blocks away !! Heck, they both had voices like opera singers (basso-profundo).

    Like Grama-Herc said, I have also developed a pattern of "isolate and avoid." For me too, its all about feeling SAFE (as opposed to feeling threatened or under attack). A relative in the UK invited me to visit last summer, but there was no way I could go.

    I already have a sense that this forum is the right place for me, and I realize that I have alot to learn about "healing" as onebravegirl said.

  12. Real

    Real Member

    Thanks for all the responses. They are helping me put into words what my reaction was to growing up in a chaotic family with an abusive and alcoholic father. The little girl in me wanted to flee and/or freeze, but I paid no attention to her even though she cowered in the corner in my mind, terrified. But the part of me that pretended to be the grown-up and rescuer ended up in the middle of my father's abuse every night. He was physically and verbally abusive to everyone in the family, and I took it as my job to stop him. The little girl in me registered the abuse as he wanted to kill. And all I could do was shut her down so we could survive. Now she wants to be heard. And it's very painful and scary for me to allow that.
  13. onebravegirl

    onebravegirl Well-Known Member

    You have a RIGHT to be heard. In screams and in words, in tears or wails...
    What ever sound you choose to make-you have a right to have it heard.
    Do not be afraid to share that here, you will not be judged but praised for the courage it takes to let all that horrible pain out.
    I will listen!
  14. Real

    Real Member

    There are screams in me. Lots of them. I'm afraid to let them out. I'm afraid I will go crazy. And sometimes when I try to say words, they can't come out. They are like sounds that don't make sense. I'm so used to trying to stay in control, and now there are years and years of afraid and alone in me.
  15. tah

    tah New Member

    Trying to be in control of myself and my surroundings has been my demise. I always and mostly still do think that if I am in control everything will be ok and noone can see my weaknesses. Unfortunately it has caused me to lash out on those who love me. It is hard for me to separate the two.
  16. seaworthy

    seaworthy Active Member

    I definitely go into 'freeze' mode. In all of my assaults, I just go helpless and numb and on the ceiling as I did as a child.
    Later on, I feel driven into some 'fight' mode that I'm also terrified and conflicted to carry out and so I get passive-aggressive.

  17. Nicolette

    Nicolette ♡ Supporter Admin ♡
    Supporter Admin

    I was reading something about this the other day and the three common terms/modes are flight, fight or fear (which would equate to freeze).
  18. She Cat

    She Cat I'm a VIP
    Premium Member

    I used to be the *fighter*... Hell, I would even pick a fight first, if I saw one coming... I would fight over anything....I learned through a lot of mistakes, therapy, and self awareness that it isn't the way to go...

    Now I have a hard time with people yelling at me/ confrontation/or just plain old feeling the *walking on eggshell* feeling coming on. I tend to run. I am not sure how a person goes from one extreme to the other, as I did, but I have......You would think I would have learned in the process how to just handle it better........But, I haven't!!!!!!!
  19. Diana

    Diana New Member

    More Important than Fight or Flight

    As I read through this thread I sensed that some have the idea that flight is better than fight and vice versa. If I've sensed incorrectly, disregard. If I've sensed correctly, though, it would be worth noting that there is no inherent difference between fight or flight. Both are coping mechanisms. Both are protective measures taken by the person in need - and both are temporary solutions to what is likely an ongoing problem.

    I'm sure there are those who predominantly fly while others more often fight. This doesn't make one person more effective than the other, though, because it depends on what each person needs at a particular time. In that vein, then, seeing person A succeed in flight rather than fight doesn't mean that will work for person B.

    Both fight and flight consume a person's energy and bring about different consequences. The fighter will eventually have to face the consequences of their behavior (good and/or bad) and the one who takes flight is more often than not going to face, again, that from which they flew.

    The fight or flight response is an instinctual response to a threat of danger. It isn't meant to be used over and over, which is why those who are forced to do so tend to develop phobias, hyper-responses and/or personality trouble like learned helplessness. The immobilizing fear or "deer in the headlights" response others have spoken of is learned helplessness. If you know that no matter what you do it isn't going to make any difference, you will learn to do nothing no matter how bad it is. It's paralyzing and difficult to get out of once you're entrenched in the practice.

    The irony of having experienced the kind of pain, violence and abuse we've all experienced is that it is proof of our strength and endurance. Most of us have been told we are the way we are (weepy, afraid, angry, etc) because of our experiences. Rarely are we told that there is a flipside to all of it. We are not just survivors. That is not the end of that story and we are not thusly doomed to a life of confusion, frustration, tears and anger.

    Those adults who experienced trauma as children would do well to take a good look at that child's ability to survive: the stamina, resourcefulness, ability to function on (m)any level(s). We don't lose these traits and characteristics just because we reached voting age. Yes, the trauma relives itself in our minds - but in our quest to squelch those memories we also "forget" just how strong and resourceful we were. Tapping into the bag of tools we used as children means facing the trauma head on - and that's not something at the top of most people's to-do list. The thing is, we're not children anymore. When an adult faces and deals with childhood trauma, s/he does so as an adult, not the child s/he used to be. Don't be so quick to disregard the strengths you've developed since childhood, and certainly don’t dismiss the strengths that child had that allowed them to survive.

    Those who experienced trauma as adults already had a tool belt full of tools before the trauma. Some might think their tools weren’t good enough to keep the trauma from occurring, and they would be right about that particular trauma. However, their tools kept a lot of other stuff from happening even if they aren’t aware of this. So get aware. The odds of being mugged, struck by lightning, hit by a bus, etc are pretty good if you’re not aware of these dangers and how to avoid them. Give yourself credit for all the stuff that didn’t happen to you. It wasn’t just dumb luck. A lot of things didn’t happen to you because you had your bag of tools and you used them. That you didn’t have THE tool to keep a particular trauma from occurring doesn’t mean the entirety of your tool belt is useless. It means it’s time to dig through what you have and use it to your benefit.

    Every single person on this site has already exercised their strength by having sought out and found this site. That step alone required an incredible amount of courage. Don't dismiss it. Acknowledge it. It's a big deal.

    Whether you fight or take flight or just stand there makes no difference in the long run. One is not better than the other. Again, all of them are temporary solutions to ongoing problems. What matters is looking for, (re)discovering and acknowledging what you already have, what you’ve gained since the trauma, and using it all now to help yourself out.
    wattle, Jestadud and (deleted member) like this.
  20. Jestadud

    Jestadud Well-Known Member
    Premium Member

    I feel that ultimately I go into fight mode. For me this means standing my ground choosing not to allow someone or somegroup to intimidate or bully me or mine.
    It certainly does not mean that I go round picking on anyone or starting fights, probably the worst thing you could call me would be a bully.

    Thinking about it a person going into fight mode can allow many others to go into flight mode.

    An example

    You are in a McDonalds when a loud aggressive drunk walks in. Of course everyones thinking don't look at him hopefully they will chuck him out, but there are only youngsters working there who are also frightened and not sure what to do.
    The drunk then takes some food from a table and starts eating it while still shouting threats around the room. Now people are embarressed and frightened.
    When he goes to another table a bloke gets up to tell him to clear off, after more shouting they start fighting and many people run out.
  21. onebravegirl

    onebravegirl Well-Known Member

    Ever seen the movie The Edge?
    Three guys lost in the mountains, being stalked by a Grizzly?
    Each one reacts differently.
    Very intresting to me.
    Anger can be a tool to survive or a weight to hold you down.
    Flight can be a retreat to safety or a retreat from growth.
    Real and (deleted member) like this.
  22. growingpains

    growingpains Active Member

    From reading this thread I am now questioning if I am actually a flight person. I follow the flight pattern when triggered, but I also tend to push away the people closest to me...I don't get angry, but I feel irritated as can be and use this to isolate. Is that fight or flight? It might just be flight and then the PTSD symptom of "irritation".
  23. useless

    useless Member

    Seems to me that if you are pushing people away from you that would be a form of fight. You are in a sense intentionally driving them away. But I suppose there is a little bit of flight in there as well.
  24. fhawn

    fhawn New Member

    I have both

    I lean toward flight when things get bad but at work if things get bad Im like an adreiline junkie (i work in a prison),...I run toward it and do what I have to do. Im a wreck afterwards
    ...also when dealing with my perpetrator I fought back..other times I knew not to provoke him it was all in self stay alive....
  25. JimmyJames902

    JimmyJames902 Member


    I think it's "flight" that you're describing (and you've described it very well).

    In some instances I also push away the people closest to me. It's not a concious decision on my part, but I will just "drop off the radar" when I'm feeling under threat. I notice that I am unconciously seeking saftey all the time, and I scan other peoples' "vibes" to determine whether they are "safe" or not.
    growingpains likes this.
  26. Lethe

    Lethe Member

    Is it a "fight" response or an anger response? For me, my fight response isn't and never was emotional. It's a very disconnected state, where I'm aware of what's going on and what I need to do, but I'm not invested in it or the outcome. Like I know what I need to do to take out the other guy, but I'm not worried whether I'll be able to or not, just that I am going to do it. For a long time, I thought I enjoyed fighting and getting into dangerous situations, but I learned that I was trying to get that empty state that was a consequence of those situations. I really didn't care what happened to myself or anyone else as a result of those situations, just that I was there and I was able to cleave myself away internally.
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