Fight, Flight, or “Freeze” Tonic Immobility

A victim’s reaction to trauma

sad woman-2

You awake to a very large, strong man covering your mouth with one hand, making it difficult to breathe, let alone scream. In the other hand, he’s clenching a knife millimeters from your face. Terror seizes your entire body and you react…. but how?

Fight or flight is the response society expects in violent attacks. Your hypothalamus and pituitary take over, instantly flooding you with hormones to protect your sustainability.

  • Adrenalin arouses you to your circumstance.
  • Cortisol provides you with uncommon energy.
  • Opiods act like morphine to temporarily blind you to your pain.
  • Oxytocin attempts to stabilize your emotions.

Totally apart from your conscious control, you freeze.

You are not alone. It is estimated that 12 to 50% of rape victims will respond by freezing, and it is thought that the number is closer to 50% than 12%. Also, victims who experienced prior sexual trauma are more likely to…

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11 thoughts on “Fight, Flight, or “Freeze” Tonic Immobility

    • Hi “Barney”! Like you, I had never heard of “freeze” either but I can totally understand how that happens. When someone reports a rape, victims are examined for bruises, scratches, or any sign of trauma. When none is found, it becomes a question of her word against his in the courts. But “freeze” explains this fear that is overwhelming… even when it’s your own spouse that is doing the raping.

    • Thanks for sharing also… Yes, childhood sexual abuse is rape. When I saw this “Freeze”, I knew that this happens to many. It’s a self preservation but society would not understand. They only look for the bruises and cuts and physical evidence of “rape”. I pray that this will change.

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