The New Trauma Responses Model

The New Trauma Responses Model

Psychology of Trauma

Victim Recovery – A SCARS Insight

Many People Still Believe There Are Only Two Trauma Responses! Fight or Flight!

But As Science Progresses, We Better Understand Trauma Responses – All 6 Of Them!

Most scam & financial fraud victims suffer from trauma after their scam ends. Understanding the trauma responses can help victims learn why they are responding as they do when triggered.

It is important for scam victims to understand trauma responses because falling prey to a scam can have significant emotional and psychological effects on an individual. The experience of being scammed is traumatic, and individuals may experience a range of emotions such as shock, disbelief, anger, and shame. These emotional responses are natural and normal reactions to a traumatic event. Understanding who these relate to the 6 trauma responses can help them deal with both their current trauma but also with past traumas they may have experienced.

Learning about these trauma responses can help scam victims recognize that their emotions and reactions are valid and can help them cope with the aftermath of the scam. It can also help victims identify symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and the need to seek professional help if necessary (click here for counseling resources.)

Remember, scammers are skilled at manipulating and deceiving their victims, and it is essential for victims to understand that the fault lies with the scammer, not with themselves.

Digging deeper into trauma responses can help victims build resilience and move forward from the scam. It can help them develop coping strategies and seek support from loved ones, support providers (such as SCARS) or mental health professionals.


This information is provided for educational purposes only. The complexities of victim psychology require the help of a mental health professional to support victims with a thorough diagnosis and therapy to help victims manage or overcome their trauma. SCARS recommends that all crime victims see a professional trauma counselor or therapist to fully understand their trauma and the impact that it has had on their life.

Click here for resources to help find counseling and therapy professionals.


The New Trauma Responses Model - Source NICABM

The New Trauma Responses Model – Source NICABM

FREEZE Trauma Response

The FREEZE trauma response, also known as the freeze, immobilization, or tonic immobility response, is one of the three primary reactions to traumatic events, alongside the fight-or-flight response and the fight-flight-freeze response. The freeze response is characterized by a state of immobility or paralysis that occurs in response to overwhelming stress or danger.

When a person experiences a traumatic event, their body and mind can become overwhelmed by the intense fear or threat. In such situations, the freeze response may be triggered as a survival mechanism. The freeze response is thought to be evolutionarily adaptive, as it may have helped our ancestors survive life-threatening situations by reducing their chances of being detected or attacked by predators.

During the freeze response, the body enters a state of temporary shutdown. The individual may feel unable to move, speak, or take any action. They may also experience a decrease in heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration. This response is often accompanied by a feeling of detachment from the surroundings, a sense of time slowing down or stopping, and a disconnection from emotions.

The freeze trauma response can occur in various traumatic situations, such as physical or sexual assault, accidents, natural disasters, or witnessing violence. It is important to note that the freeze response can also be triggered by non-life-threatening events, such as emotional or psychological trauma.

While the freeze response can be an adaptive coping mechanism in the short term, it can have significant consequences if it persists or is not properly addressed. Prolonged immobilization or chronic activation of the freeze response can contribute to the development of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety disorders, depression, and other mental health issues. It may also affect the individual’s ability to engage in daily activities, form relationships, and experience a sense of safety.

Treatment for the freeze trauma response typically involves trauma-informed therapy approaches. These may include techniques such as eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), somatic experiencing, or other forms of trauma-focused therapy. The aim is to help the individual process the traumatic event, regain a sense of safety and control, and develop healthier coping strategies.


In many models, this falls under the Faun/Fawn Response (see below.)

When financial fraud victims are in distress, seeking out the support and comfort of others can be a natural response.

But for scam victims who’ve experienced this trauma response, this response can sometimes signal something more. Their persistent attempts to elicit help from others may indicate that they’re stuck in the attach/cry-for-help response (this may lead to a disorder called Victim’s Complex.)

So how can we better recognize this defensive adaptation to trauma in scam victims?

Attachment in trauma sufferers refers to the way individuals who have experienced trauma form and maintain relationships with others. Attachment theory, developed by John Bowlby, suggests that early experiences with caregivers shape an individual’s internal working model of relationships and influence their ability to seek support, regulate emotions, and establish trust.

Trauma can significantly impact attachment patterns and behaviors. Traumatic experiences, such as abuse, neglect, or loss that can come from a relationship scam can disrupt a person’s sense of safety, trust, and security in relationships – even relationships with support providers. The effects of trauma on attachment can vary depending on several factors, including the nature of the trauma, the age at which it occurred, and the availability of supportive caregivers or social networks.

The attach/cry for help trauma response is one of the earliest survival strategies we all develop to obtain help but it can also be a defensive trauma response. According to experts, it is the least understood trauma response. It can be difficult to detect even by professionals.

  • Some common patterns of attachment in trauma sufferers include Insecure Attachment. In this case, trauma can often lead to insecure attachment styles. This may manifest as Anxious-Preoccupied Attachment, where individuals with this attachment style may exhibit clingy or dependent behaviors, constantly seeking reassurance and support from others. They may fear abandonment and have difficulty regulating their emotions.
  • It can also be Dismissive-Avoidant Attachment, where individuals with this attachment style tend to minimize the importance of relationships and may struggle with emotional intimacy. They may appear emotionally distant, self-reliant, and have difficulty seeking support from others.
  • Fearful-Avoidant Attachment includes individuals with this attachment style may have conflicting desires for closeness and fear of rejection or harm. They may oscillate between seeking connection and withdrawing due to the fear of being hurt.
  • Reactive Attachment is, in some cases, trauma experienced during early childhood can result in reactive attachment disorder. This disorder is characterized by difficulty forming and maintaining healthy attachments with others. People with reactive attachment disorder may exhibit withdrawn, emotionally numb, or excessively clingy behaviors.

It’s important to note that individuals who have experienced trauma can display a range of attachment styles, and attachment patterns can evolve and change over time with therapy, healing, and supportive relationships. Recognizing and addressing attachment issues in trauma sufferers is crucial for their recovery. Trauma-informed therapies, such as attachment-based interventions, can help individuals develop secure attachment patterns, enhance their capacity for trust, and foster healthy relationships with others.


Like many of the emerging defense responses to trauma in financial fraud victims, the collapse/submit response can be difficult to recognize.

The collapse/submission response is a trauma response that can occur in individuals who have experienced overwhelming or life-threatening events, such as a relationship scam. This response is characterized by a sense of powerlessness, helplessness, and a loss of control.

During a traumatic event, the collapse/submission response may involve the individual feeling paralyzed or frozen, unable to fight back or escape. This response is similar to the freeze response, which involves the body going into a state of immobilization or dissociation in response to a perceived threat. However, it is after the traumatic event that this response is more identifiable.

After the traumatic event, individuals who have experienced the collapse/submission response may exhibit a range of symptoms, including:

  • Physical symptoms: This may include fatigue, low energy, and a feeling of being drained or exhausted.
  • Emotional symptoms: Individuals may feel a sense of shame, guilt, or self-blame for their perceived inability to fight back or escape during the traumatic event.
  • Behavioral symptoms: Individuals may avoid situations that remind them of the traumatic event, and may exhibit a lack of motivation or interest in activities that they previously enjoyed.
  • Interpersonal symptoms: Individuals may feel disconnected from others, avoid social interactions, and have difficulty trusting others.

It’s important to note that the collapse/submission response is not a conscious decision or choice made by the individual, but rather a physiological and psychological response to trauma.

PLEASE/APPEASE or FAWN Trauma Response

The please/appease or fawn response is a trauma response that can occur in individuals who have experienced trauma or stressful situations. This response is characterized by a strong inclination to please or appease others in order to mitigate perceived threats and maintain a sense of safety.

When confronted with a traumatic event, victims exhibiting the fawn response may engage in behaviors such as:

  • People-pleasing: They may excessively prioritize the needs and desires of others, often at the expense of their own well-being. They may go to great lengths to avoid conflict or rejection, striving to keep others happy and maintain a sense of security.
  • Submissiveness: Individuals may adopt a submissive stance, deferring to others’ opinions and decisions, and avoiding expressing their own needs and boundaries. They may have difficulty asserting themselves due to fear of negative consequences or abandonment.
  • Overcompliance: They may conform to others’ expectations or demands even when it goes against their own values or desires. This excessive compliance is an attempt to avoid conflict or confrontation and maintain a sense of safety.
  • Self-sacrifice: Individuals may place a heavy emphasis on taking care of others’ needs, often neglecting their own well-being in the process. They may feel responsible for soothing or appeasing others’ emotions and may struggle with setting healthy boundaries.

The fawn response is rooted in a deep-seated fear of rejection, abandonment, or harm. It can stem from previous experiences where the victims learned that submitting to others’ demands or appeasing them helped to mitigate potential threats or conflicts. This is also one of the very common vulnerabilities that victims say about themselves – that they were to much of a “people pleaser.”

While the fawn response may provide temporary relief or a sense of safety, it can also lead to long-term negative consequences. Individuals who continuously engage in fawning behaviors may experience difficulties in establishing healthy boundaries, developing a strong sense of self, and forming authentic connections with others. It can be a significant vulnerability to future frauds and deceptions too.


The aggression or fight response is one of the trauma responses that can occur in individuals who have experienced traumatic events. This response is characterized by a heightened state of arousal, increased aggression, and an inclination to fight back or defend oneself in the face of perceived threats.

When scam victims with a trauma history experience triggers or reminders of their traumatic events, they may exhibit the following aggressive or fight-oriented behaviors:

  • Physical aggression: This can involve physically lashing out, engaging in fights, or displaying violent behaviors as a means of self-protection or survival. It may include verbal aggression, such as yelling, shouting, or using threatening language.
  • Hyperarousal: Trauma sufferers may experience increased physiological arousal, including heightened heart rate, rapid breathing, muscle tension, and a state of hypervigilance. This heightened state of arousal can contribute to a reactive and aggressive response to perceived threats.
  • Irritability and anger: Trauma survivors may exhibit heightened irritability and anger, often experiencing difficulty managing or controlling these emotions. Small triggers or stressors can result in intense anger outbursts or irritability.
  • Defensive behavior: Trauma sufferers may adopt defensive behaviors as a way to protect themselves from perceived danger. This can include being overly guarded, mistrustful, or having the inclination to interpret situations as threatening.
  • Exaggerated Distrust of Care Providers: Because of a victim’s prior beliefs or poorly learned new knowledge, victims often respond to contradicting ideas as threats. This often leads to very aggressive, angry, rage-filled, or hateful responses to professional care providers. This is a sort of “anyone that disagrees with them is the enemy.”

It is important to note that the aggression or fight response in trauma sufferers is often a reactive response driven by fear, a sense of powerlessness, or an instinct for self-preservation. While this response can be a survival mechanism in certain situations, it can also lead to interpersonal conflicts, strained relationships, and further distress for the individual.

Treating aggression in trauma sufferers typically involves trauma-informed therapies that address the underlying trauma and associated emotional dysregulation.

RUNAWAY/FLIGHT Trauma Response

The runaway or flight response is one of the trauma responses that can occur in relationship scam victims who have experienced the trauma that comes after a scam or fraud has been discovered.

This response is characterized by a strong urge to escape or flee from perceived threats or dangerous situations. Often after a fraud, victims feel very threatened or fearful. Sometimes it is because they were actually threatened, but most often, it is because of fears they imagine and feed in their own minds.

When individuals with a trauma encounter triggers or reminders of their traumatic experiences or their fears, they may exhibit the following flight-oriented behaviors:

  • Avoidance: Victims may actively avoid people, places, or situations that remind them of their traumatic events. This avoidance can be a way to prevent retraumatization and reduce the risk of encountering similar threats in the future.
  • Emotional numbing: Individuals may emotionally disconnect or detach themselves from their feelings as a means of self-preservation. This numbing response serves to minimize the impact of traumatic memories and emotions associated with the crime.
  • Escapist behaviors: Trauma survivors may engage in various behaviors or activities to distract themselves or create a sense of temporary relief. This can include excessive work, substance abuse, compulsive behaviors, or seeking constant external stimulation to avoid facing distressing emotions or memories. This can also be desperation to help other victims.
  • Social withdrawal: Individuals may isolate themselves from others, experiencing difficulty in forming or maintaining relationships. This withdrawal can stem from a fear of being vulnerable or a lack of trust in others due to the traumatic experience of the crime. But this also tends to hold victims back from getting the help they need.

The flight response in victims suffering trauma is an instinctual attempt to seek safety, avoid potential harm, and regain a sense of control, yet ironically leads to less control. However, prolonged avoidance and withdrawal can hinder the healing process and contribute to the development of anxiety disorders, depression, and social isolation.

Next Steps

If a scam or fraud victim recognizes that they are exhibiting trauma responses, it is important for them to take proactive steps to address their well-being and seek appropriate support. These are their path back to a more comfortable self and a happier life.

Here are some suggestions for what they can do:

  • Validate their experience: Recognize that trauma responses are normal reactions to abnormal events – almost every scam victim (if they are honest about it) will experience trauma. Understand that their responses are not a sign of weakness or failure but a natural part of the trauma experience these crimes create.
  • Educate themselves: Learn more about trauma, its effects on the mind and body, and the different types of trauma responses. Understanding the science behind trauma can help individuals make sense of their own reactions and provide a foundation for seeking appropriate help. Click here to begin learning.
  • Seek professional help: Reach out to a mental health professional, such as a therapist or counselor, who specializes in trauma. These professionals can provide guidance, support, and evidence-based interventions to help process the trauma and develop healthy coping strategies. Click here for counseling and therapy resources.
  • Find a professional support provider: Join a professionally facilitated peer-to-peer support program, where they can speak with other victims, and learn about what is normal for the different stages of the recovery journey. SCARS provides free private & confidential support groups – visit to sign up.
  • Practice self-care: Engage in activities that promote self-care and well-being, such as mindfulness. This can include exercise, relaxation techniques (such as deep breathing or mindfulness), spending time in nature, pursuing hobbies, connecting with supportive friends or family, or engaging in creative outlets. Taking care of oneself physically, emotionally, and mentally is essential for healing.
  • Build a support system: Surround oneself with trusted individuals who can offer understanding, empathy, and support. This may include friends, family members, support group members, or online communities of fellow trauma survivors. Sharing experiences with others who have gone through similar challenges can be validating and help reduce feelings of isolation.
  • Practice grounding techniques: Grounding techniques can help individuals stay present and connected to the present moment when they are experiencing distressing trauma-related symptoms. Techniques such as deep breathing, focusing on sensory experiences (like touching an object or listening to soothing music), or using grounding affirmations can provide a sense of stability and safety.
  • Explore trauma-focused therapies: Consider trauma-focused therapies with their therapist like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), or somatic experiencing. These therapies are designed to help individuals process and integrate traumatic experiences, manage symptoms, and promote healing.
  • Prioritize self-compassion: Be gentle and kind to oneself throughout the healing journey. Recognize that healing takes time, and setbacks are normal. Practice self-compassion by offering understanding and forgiveness to oneself during difficult moments.

Remember, everyone’s healing journey is unique, and it is essential to find approaches and strategies that resonate with individual needs and preferences. Seeking professional guidance can provide personalized support and assistance in navigating trauma responses effectively.

And most important …

Remember, this was not their fault!

-/ 30 /-

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PLEASE NOTE: Psychology Clarification

The following specific modalities within the practice of psychology are restricted to psychologists appropriately trained in the use of such modalities:

  • Diagnosis: The diagnosis of mental, emotional, or brain disorders and related behaviors.
  • Psychoanalysis: Psychoanalysis is a type of therapy that focuses on helping individuals to understand and resolve unconscious conflicts.
  • Hypnosis: Hypnosis is a state of trance in which individuals are more susceptible to suggestion. It can be used to treat a variety of conditions, including anxiety, depression, and pain.
  • Biofeedback: Biofeedback is a type of therapy that teaches individuals to control their bodily functions, such as heart rate and blood pressure. It can be used to treat a variety of conditions, including stress, anxiety, and pain.
  • Behavioral analysis: Behavioral analysis is a type of therapy that focuses on changing individuals’ behaviors. It is often used to treat conditions such as autism and ADHD.
    Neuropsychology: Neuropsychology is a type of psychology that focuses on the relationship between the brain and behavior. It is often used to assess and treat cognitive impairments caused by brain injuries or diseases.

SCARS and the members of the SCARS Team do not engage in any of the above modalities in relationship to scam victims. SCARS is not a mental healthcare provider and recognizes the importance of professionalism and separation between its work and that of the licensed practice of psychology.

SCARS is an educational provider of generalized self-help information that individuals can use for their own benefit to achieve their own goals related to emotional trauma. SCARS recommends that all scam victims see professional counselors or therapists to help them determine the suitability of any specific information or practices that may help them.

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It is important that all readers understand these distinctions and that they apply the information that SCARS may publish at their own risk, and should do so only after consulting a licensed psychologist or mental healthcare provider.






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