What is the Freeze Response?

Most of us already know and understand the fight or flight response that we experience when we perceive a threat. Regardless of whether that thread is real or imagined our body gets a surge of adrenaline making our hearts beat faster. I always thought mine was broken but it’s not. I experience a freeze response.

In the freeze response my mind decides that I can’t outrun or overcome the threat. Honestly if you ever saw me run you would understand why I couldn’t outrun anything or anyone. Instead I freeze or essentially play dead.

The Hyena Incident

I have the perfect example for you. Once I was taking the trash to the collection area when I came upon an animal that I swear looked like a hyena. Now, I live in rural Georgia so the chances of that is slim. However, there a wild animal park in our area.

Whatever the thing was (and I’m sticking to my hyena survival story) we both froze as we looked at one another. The thing looked at me like I could end world hunger, licked his (or her) lips and the suddenly walked off.
I stood there for another five minutes. I couldn’t move, couldn’t react in any way. That is freeze. That moment of knowing I should react a different way but not being able to.

Freeze and Anxiety

Freeze and anxiety can be difficult to manage at times. There are many times that my anxiety causes me to freeze and it all can be overactive. One thing I have found that freezing can do is help me calm enough to get beyond an anxiety attack.

Many people who freeze find it helps to pull themselves back by snapping a rubber band on their wrist or other tools. I go through a list of questions in my head. Things like name five things I can see right in front of me. Name fifteen book characters that I enjoy reading. Things that will reengage my brain and get me through the freeze response.

Anxiety heightens fight, flight, or freeze because non-threating things can be perceived as threatening. For example, figuring out the monthly budget, stressing and worrying over it can cause me to overreact and create a response.

It has taken me a long time to come to terms with freeze and the fact that my fight or flight wasn’t broken. Most of my life I thought there was something wrong with me. If I didn’t freeze I reacted in a way that wasn’t normal. For example I sometimes laugh when I get scared. It is one of those things in my brain that creates a different reaction.

Of course watching a scary movie while on a date is more than a little awkward when the whole theater screams and you laugh. You know everyone is looking at you like you’re crazy. As bad as that was, how about freezing up for thirty minutes and siting there like you’re frozen. Your date is speaking to you and nothing seems to be getting through.


If you react to things differently take with your doctor, therapist, or whomever and tell them about it. You may find that you have the freeze response. However, never feel as though you are alone in this. There are more us out there than you can imagine.


Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *