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Fawn trauma response symptoms

Childhood traumas concept. Upset arab girl covering ears with hands not to listen parents conflict

Fawn trauma response symptoms

Individuals who had adverse childhood experiences (adverse childhood trauma) may get stuck in the “fawn trauma response,” which is an adaptive response to threats. Here is more about fawn trauma:

Some people experience the “fawn trauma response,” a coping mechanism characterized by submission and compliance, as a result of traumatic experiences as children or persistent stress. For people who grew up in abusive or neglectful environments, where “playing dead” or remaining passive was the best way to prevent further harm, it is thought to be a survival tactic. It can be challenging to establish healthy boundaries and maintain healthy relationships as an adult because of the “fawn” response. Fawn trauma responders are frequently perceived as being excessively passive and compliant in relationships, giving in to the demands of their partners or anyone else they come into contact with even when their own needs are not being met. As they continue to give in to requests and demands from others without speaking up for themselves, this can result in feelings of low self-worth and helplessness.

The symptoms of a fawn response can vary, but some common signs include:

  1. People-pleasing behaviour: a compulsive need to win people over and a fear of criticism or reprisals
  2. Suppressed feelings include the inability to express emotions and sentiments, particularly anger or frustration.
  3. Conflict avoidance is the tendency to stay away from fights and disagreements, even if it means giving up your own needs or wants.
  4. Lack of boundaries: difficulty in setting and enforcing healthy boundaries in relationships
  5. Feelings of inadequacy, shame, and guilt are signs of low self-esteem. Chronic fatigue: feeling worn out and overburdened all the time
  6. Saying “yes” to everything despite the fact that doing so will cause burnout or sacrifice your own wellbeing is difficult.
  7. The inability to recognize and express one’s own needs and desires is a sign of disconnection.

It is important to note that everyone experiences these symptoms differently and to a different degree. If you recognize these symptoms and you want to change and manage them, contact me to discuss how therapy can help you.  

Mego Nerses


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I am an Ottawa-based Registered Psychotherapist and have a full-time private practice. In the past, I worked in social service agencies for many years. I offer individual, relationship, and sex therapy in English, Arabic, and Armenian to adults 18+, and I do not work with minors.

In 2011, I earned a master’s degree in Counselling from the University of Ottawa. I am a Registered Psychotherapist in Ontario (CRPO#001132) with the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario. In addition, I am a Certified Counsellor with the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association (CCPA#3058). My clinical training focuses on relationship and sex therapy and trauma/PTSD. Since 2013, I have been at Algonquin College as a seasonal professor, teaching courses in mental health and addiction.

I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to publish peer-reviewed articles and contribute chapters concerning Counselling, coming out, and trauma related explicitly to LGBTQ+ refugees and newcomers to Canada. I have presented numerous workshops and continue to offer trainings nationally and internationally on the mental health of LGBTQI+ and SOGIE refugees and asylum seekers.


Professional Work

Early in my professional career, I specialized in individual therapy and served clients with depression, anxiety, PTSD, and grief. Since then, I have taken my clinical work to a higher level and gained more experience in four areas: PTSD and Trauma, Sexuality and Gender Identity, Sex and Relationship Therapy, and Refugee mental health issues. I have received various trainings in these areas since choosing to specialize. As an example, I received training from Division 56, Trauma Psychology, Physicians for Human Rights, and the Global Institute of Forensic Research in writing immigration evaluations for immigration courts. Furthermore, I have completed multiple trainings in trauma/PTSD therapy and relationship therapy (Poly. Kink). I have participated in numerous training opportunities in the field of sex therapy, sexuality, and gender identity. 

I am a LGBTQI+/poly/kink/CNM supportive and informed therapist.

Therapeutic approaches
In addition to Narrative Exposure Therapy for PTSD (NET), I have also been trained in Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) for PTSD and Experiential Therapy and Focusing. I integrate social justice and rights-based principles into my work as a trauma-informed therapist.

In recognition of my dedication to helping LGBTQ+ refugees and asylum seekers in Canada, I received the 2017 Humanitarian Award from the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association (CCPA).

AffiliationsI have an international affiliate membership with Division 56, Trauma Psychology, the American Psychological Association (APA), and the Global Institute of Forensic Research.


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