Freeze or Flight? Thoughts about time loss and workaholism?


The difference between freeze and flight is confusing me. I absolutely lose myself in workaholism as a main coping strategy. But with that I also have severe disassociation, as in time loss. Time loss being one of my biggest problematic symptoms since the assaults, ranges from years to days, but has been ongoing. I think it is also the reason I constantly lose my keys, wallet, credit card, etc…

But disassociation as time loss, is one of the more frightening experiences I’ve ever had. When I realized I didn’t know what year it was or how old I was, I first faced the seriousness of my mental illness and that something was very out of my control mentally.

Wisely, at the time I didn’t tell a soul. I knew, I believe accurately, that this would have been the evidence needed by those targeting me to gain power of attorney over me.

Right now, today, clearly I am in freeze, as I have been for a month or more. I cannot get myself to take action, also a frightening experience but when I think about it I just want to go to bed.

Thoughts about time loss and workaholism?
i suffer both hysterical flight and severe dissociation. my flight trigger always begins with a freeze reaction. short, but momentarily paralytic. my freeze reflex passes so quickly that it took both my therapists and my biology teachers to convince me to even look for the freeze reaction before the flight launching. i typically launch into flight before anyone involved in the drama is even aware there is a problem. my flights have been known to last indefinitely and to carry me to other continents. they typically end in severe dissociation. theories abound, but i support the theory that physical exhaustion is the primary catalyst of my dissociative episodes. the dissociative episodes are where i lose time, even blackouts. i am typically hyper-alert to everything, including time, during a flight episode. time has little to no meaning to me during dissociation. ?quien cuida? my give a damn is busted.

i've worked with workaholic sibs-in-healing who were also suffering dissociative episodes they were able to remedy by learning how to treat rest like a productive activity. well. . . at least the ones who buy the exhaustion theory of dissociative episodes. the equation of dissociation is far more complex than physical exhaustion, but in our cases, it is a common gateway.

just thoughts. . .
Hi arfie, it's been a while and can't remember how to quote you.
"i support the theory that physical exhaustion is the primary catalyst of my dissociative episodes"
Do you think this even when the episodes last years? The situation I refer to in the first post, I went to the doctor and while filling out forms didn't know the year or my age, etc... Turns out it had been about 3 years since I escaped. It is true I was physically ill as well as traumatized, as I am now.

I guess what I wonder is if you think even in these extremely long episodes if it might be exhaustion? I am definitely going to ponder your point of view so thank so much for this!
Flight & Freeze are both types of an adrenaline response.

- Flight think of a deer running away.
- Freeze think of a deer staring into headlights, completely immobile.

Which doesn’t sound like what you’re talking about at all… But rather dissociative episodes, dissociative fugue states, depression, stress-sick, & avoidance? Also possibly some physical health concerns, that may be mimicking mental health concerns &/or making your PTSD symptoms worse?
Last edited:
Yep - did the workaholic-dissociation thing most of my life. Didn't lose time in quite the same way though - mine was more about controlling time. I had every minute of my time accounted for every day. My dissociation was more hiding my past fron my present, if that makes sense. But doing that meant ever increasing hours of things to do to keep the dissociation wall in place. It was kind of a flight thing because I had to keep moving at all costs

My doctor had warned me over and over that I was an addict - my drug of choice was working but it was no different than a person who is addicted to alcohol or drugs and that I had to start thinking of it that way. That was so weird to accept because how could success be bad?

When it finally caught up with me it was catastrophic. Got diagnosed with ptsd and fibromyalgia and had to quit my job because I was so chronically exhausted and couldn't think anymore. Totally upended my world and started to break that wall down. Then the ptsd and dissociation got worse and I felt like I was living in the past and present at the same time. It was awful

Its a little easier now, but ya, my dissociation gets way worse if I get tired or overly stressed.
It sucks 😩
Thanks for this topic. The theory I have right now is the flight - workaholism was to stave off the freeze - deep hopelessness, sadness, helplessness etc sitting underneath. There are aspects working really hard to stay functional, while another aspect is working just as hard trying to get me to come back to bed, be depressed, stop and be attentive to the pain. This was my initial response to my (grand)mother's death, work, work, work, work, until of course I could no longer run. Forced out of exertion into exhaustion and at least here, I don't feel the original pain, I feel the layer of exhaustion and whatever else I have brought on me, on top of the original pain that got me on the run in the first place, but at least here I am in control. High price to pay
PRIOR to fight or flight my healthiest tool is distraction. Staying busy is an avoidance of the progression to fight or flight.
Losing time by being constructive isnt something that has ever bothered me, but yeah, i wouldnt feel the same way about it if i thought it was a symptom of the disorder.
When I realized I didn’t know what year it was or how old I was, I first faced the seriousness of my mental illness and that something was very out of my control mentally.
Those moments really hit you.......and you know something is wrong but not what.

I too lost myself in workaholism for a long time. It made the not sleeping "call in", I could work 20 hours - have a nap for a couple hours and go right back at it.

I am also freeze. You want to flee and run but some invisible thing makes me like a rabbit - just sit perfectly still and no one can see you....
I kind of envy anyone who didn't have to be a workaholic, but it isn't really true as I probably would be one anyway.

I think the thing with burnout for some of us is anxiety no longer motivates. It's like what despair is to depression.

I agree with @Friday , that perhaps it has a physical component or is more like dissociative fugue. I was always aware of (my) running, at least after the fact. And though grief or fear or stress and exhaustion could leave me unable to think, eventually I could. Mind you, more so when I had support or what gave me support and strength.

Many people seem to be having odd physical issues. I think it might have a lot to do with the impact of post-covid and inflammation, and stress and exhaustion. Employers have been all too ready to overwork the people who did not refuse or collapse.

Hopefully you can get expert help and resolve this, it is very frightening. Hugs to you @pamcoco .