One of the three most commonly recognized reactions of the stress response system. The body mobilizes in response to the perception of danger, and the individual activates by running from the threat in order to optimize survival. This response might be observed, for example, in a trauma-impacted child who bolts from his classroom when distressed or an adolescent who elopes from her foster home or treatment center when feeling rejected or threatened.
In the ongoing life and development of the trauma survivor, the flight response can continue to emerge in reaction to the perception of threat, and can take on the form of remaining perpetually busy, workaholism, or often transitioning to the next job, city, or relationship in response to the fear of potential harm, rejection, or betrayal. This generally occurs in the survivor in response to a trigger that is reminiscent of past traumatic experiences. Therapeutically, it can be useful to assist clients in recognizing the protective nature of these behaviors historically, while simultaneously working to develop new, more mindful responses.