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Implementing a trauma-informed approach across the spectrum of care can be challenging. Even once you’re aware of the prevalence of trauma amongst the people you support, it can take time to adapt your approach to care accordingly.

Recognizing the signs and signals of trauma is something you likely already do, whether by studying someone’s history or being attuned to their body language. However, relying on body language alone can be limiting.

Many people go into a trauma response when they are triggered by environmental or social factors such as a loud noise, a specific venue, or a face in a crowd. Of all the responses to trauma, the fight and flight responses are typically a little easier to spot. For example, verbal and physical aggression or elopement are hard to miss. However, the fawn and freeze responses can be incredibly difficult to identify, especially in the early stages.

Freeze is akin to an “off switch”. If you are in freeze mode, you’ll likely find it difficult to respond to the situation at hand. You’ll stay silent, you won’t move. Freeze responses are especially common with people who have complex trauma and PTSD.

Fawning is a more recently identified response getting attention from researchers and practitioners. Fawning is quite subversive and noticing it from the outside, especially in someone you don’t know very well is extremely challenging. This coping strategy is typically learned by children with non-nurturing or abusive caregivers.

“To avoid conflict, negative emotions, and re-traumatization, people who “fawn”, when triggered, will go out of their way to mirror someone’s opinions and appease them in order to de-escalate situations or potential issues.” - Sam Finch, 2019