Fawning: What it is, its link to trauma, and how teens can address it
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Have you ever found yourself doing whatever it takes to avoid conflict? Do you often become a people pleaser for those around you even when they don’t seem to have your best interests at heart? Do you find that you feel safest when those around you are appeased? You may be experiencing a psychological response called “fawning.” Fawning is defined as a response to trauma during times when a person feels threatened or unsafe.

Treatment from a licensed clinical therapist can be beneficial for teens who fawn. We’ll discuss the definition of fawning further and why teens should receive treatment to address this mechanism.

How is fawning linked to trauma?

Fawning is, by definition, a survival response to complex trauma. It most often develops as a coping mechanism in response to feeling unsafe. Someone who feels powerless or is frequently in danger may unconsciously use fawning in an attempt to establish security between themselves and someone who is perpetrating abuse. The most common types of fawning occur in relationships between a child and a parent or between two spouses. The desired outcome of fawning is that the perpetrator becomes less likely to lash out and cause harm.

Fawning can occur in people of all ages. It can develop during childhood, teenage years and even adulthood. It’s one of four typical responses to extensive periods of interpersonal trauma (fight, flight, freeze, fawn). While fawning serves to help one survive an abusive interpersonal dynamic, it can be unhelpful for future relationships with others.  

What does fawning look like?

Now that we’ve described the basic definition of fawning and how it’s linked to trauma, you may be interested in some of the most common symptoms of fawning, which include:

  • Trouble maintaining boundaries with others or saying no
  • Making decisions only to please others, not because it’s what you want
  • Agreeing with someone else to please them, not because you want to
  • Struggling to maintain your own identity
  • Appeasing others by constantly flattering them
  • Neglecting your own needs, wants and preferences
  • Immediately trying to make an angry person happier any way you can

How can teens who fawn address these tendencies?

Anyone can learn to fawn to protect themselves during abusive interpersonal relationships. This includes teenagers. Do you find that you frequently ignore your own wants and needs just to keep a particular person, like a parent, happy? You might be experiencing a fawning trauma response. It’s important that you address the fawning tendencies to develop healthy relationships with others as you grow older. Fawning may at times protect you from your abusive perpetrator, but it does little else for you. It has the potential to affect several spheres of your life, including the following:

  • Your academic performance
  • Your ability to pursue the extracurricular activities you’re interested in
  • Your friends and social circle
  • Your physical health
  • Your mental health

One of the best methods for addressing fawning is to talk to a mental health expert. A licensed clinical therapist can help you address these patterns during talk therapy. Over time, you can unlearn fawning and develop deep, meaningful relationships with people who enrich your life, not detract from it. A therapist can help you learn to identify when you use the fawning trauma response in your life and how you can start using healthier coping strategies in its place. Fawning is a complex form of trauma that often coexists with PTSD and c-PTSD. At Lightfully, we’re here to help address each of these underlying mental health disorders and trauma responses.

Lightfully can help you take control of your life 

Our mission at Lightfully is to provide high-quality mental health care to various types of clients through a focused approach to process-based therapy. The framework of our clinic consists of evidence-based, clearly defined, data-driven and whole-person-centered care. We have extensive experience working with teen clients who struggle with fawning, and we’d like to help you manage this trauma response so that you can start living true to yourself.

Lightfully offers various levels of care to both adults and teens: Residential Treatment, Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP), and Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP), also referred to as our Day Treatment Program. We also offer a Virtual Intensive Outpatient Program (vIOP) for adults. If you think you may be experiencing fawning, let one of our licensed clinical therapists help you. Don’t hesitate to reach out to one of our trauma-informed specialists today.

Change is possible. When you’re ready to take the first step, reach out to our Admissions Concierge Team. We’ll take the next steps together, toward the fullest, brightest version of you.

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