Women Share The Behaviors They Realized Were Actually Trauma Responses (20 Stories)

A trauma response is a reaction to a traumatic incident — think “flight or fight”, for example. But deep trauma can create even starker, more lasting response patterns that people can feel “stuck” in for a long time. With therapy, the hope is that some of these trauma responses can be mitigated, but it’s definitely hard.

u/bffsfavoritegelato asked the AskWomen subreddit:

“What behavior that you do/did, but never really thought about, have you come to realize is a trauma response? Also how did you feel when you had that epiphany and how do you feel about the behavior now?”

And we gathered up some of the best replies.

1. Neutrality

Remaining neutral. I don’t have a favorite color or favorite food, I go with whatever. If someone ignores what I want I rarely speak up for myself because I generally don’t care that much. I’m the quietest person in the room, I live in the gray area, nothing is ever black or white for me.


2. Independence

Hyper independence. I thought that was a great thing until I realized it was born out of trauma where I could not rely on caretakers.


3. Noises

I can’t stand abrupt, loud noises. They jar me emotionally and physically.

It’s a learned response from hearing my drunken dad raging at my mom. I used to lay still in bed, hoping the yelling and slamming would stop. Freaks me out every time.


4. Hyper-vigilance

I’m not sure if this is a trauma response but reading people’s behavior, especially the people in my house.

I listen to their footsteps, their tone, their expressions.


5. Justification

Justifying everything, and only speaking up when I have receipts or screenshots.


6. Shut down

Shutting down emotionally. I thought it’s just normal for me not to react, not to feel anything, not to express my emotions. Until I realized that I was like this because I was always emotionally abandoned as a child, I feel that it’s useless crying for someone who won’t be there for me, it’s useless loving someone who’d eventually leave me. I realized that it’s something I need to work on, to heal myself and maybe, who knows, someday I might meet someone who deserves an emotionally mature version of me, who deserves all the love and affection I can give


7. Other emotions

Taking responsibility for other people’s emotions


8. Calmness

HAVING PEOPLE FEEL EXTREMELY CALM AROUND ME TURNED OUT TO BE A TRAUMA RESPONSE. It was me keeping the peace to be more specific. I never wanted anyone to be uncomfortable around me, including compromising my own comfortability. I was so proud of it too lmao. Fuck everyone I attracted with that shit and took advantage.


9. Double checking

My double and more checking, screenshotting so I can go back and check info, and doubt in my own memory/opinions/self is probably due to my mom gaslighting me. I didnt even realize she was on my own. My cousin told me and I had a huge oh so Im not crazy/wrong moment and realized my self esteem/distrust in my own perception of the world was due to her crazy making


10. Sorry!

Constantly saying sorry and thinking I did something wrong. Because I’ve been scrutinised for a long time by my dad, where if I did just one thing wrong it would mean I’m stupid with no brain.. brown people problems ha


11. No tears

I don’t cry in front of people. No matter the situation, no matter if it’s a totally reasonable thing to cry over and I know that it is, I can’t cry in front of other people. I have to excuse myself and make sure nobody thought I was crying.


12. Planning

My brain automatically seeks out every possible outcome, and plans for every negative.


13. Bathroom anxiety

I have pretty bad bathroom anxiety. I also regress and shutdown when confronted by another woman. Particularly an older one.

One of my bosses was an older lady, very strict but caring. She made a comment once after I messed something up and she was upset with me. She could see my distress.

She said something like “you’re not a little girl, I’m not going to spank you or anything” basically reassuring me.

That’s when I realized it was all from my step mom.

Also I still wet the bed as an early 20s adult thanks to my step mom.


14. Tears

Crying from conflict. Crying when giving my honest feelings/opinions. I’m working on it in therapy but it’s difficult to stop and to feel safe expressing my feelings.


15. Fixing it

Trying to “fix things” when someone gets upset. “Can I help you? Let me make it better,” so they’ll stop griping, complaining, stomping around, whatever it is they’re doing to display their displeasure with a situation.


16. No “owing” anyone

I don’t let anyone pay for me or put me in a position where I might “owe.”


17. Get home

My intense and panicky need to get home whenever I feel stress or too much loud noise, etc. I didn’t initially understand it because “home” was never good to me, but now as an adult, I feel immense relief when I get home. After therapy and some reading, I realized that being locked in my room for years as a child, was when the overt abuse “stopped.” At least I was by myself and didn’t have to worry about anything else at that moment. So that turned into a need to return to my place, where I’m alone and the “abuse” [stress] stops. And it’s also why I prefer smaller living spaces to giant ones. Crazy.


18. Disassociation

Dissociation. It’s been such an ingrained and usual behaviour for me since I was a kid that I never really took a step back to understand why I have this mechanism and how prevalent it is in my life until my psychiatrist diagnosed me with dissociative identity disorder a few years ago and we started working on these different parts, and I’ve really come to realise just how much depersonalisation-derealisation and taping into some “alter states” has evolved in my childhood and teenagehood whenever I subconsciously dissociated in difficult situations to detach myself from physical and emotional pain, in order to feel or perceive like they weren’t directly happening to me.


19. How are you?

The first time I went to therapy and the therapist just looked at me and asked me how I was doing, I cried. I couldn’t remember the last time someone had genuinely been interested in how I was doing.

The worse part is that I was there for couples counseling with an ex who would never just ask me how I was (or how my day was) and just listen. Every answer was either a way to start talking about himself or a reason to start an argument. I’m so much better off now and have a ton of friends that genuinely want to know how I am.


20. Sabotage

Sabotage relationships, self-harm and other physical coping mechanisms, avoid conflict, and apologize for everything.