How ADHD and Stress Can Make Us Fight, Run, Freeze or Try to Please

Understanding the Connection between ADHD and Stress in Women

ADHD and stress are closely linked, and as a woman with ADHD, it’s crucial to understand how stress can shape your reactions. Typically, there are four common stress responses: fight, flight, freeze, or fawn. Recognizing and learning to manage these responses can greatly alleviate your stress levels.



ADHD, Stress, and the Fight Response

When faced with stress, a common response for women with ADHD is anger. If you find yourself lashing out when you’re scared or uncertain, this fight response might be your default mode. This instinctive response, vital for survival in past eras, can create relationship and workplace complications in our modern world. More importantly, it distracts from effectively addressing stress.

Do you react defensively when you’re scared or feel out of control? Do you blame others or lose your temper easily? If so, you might be inclined towards the fight response. Keep in mind that it’s perfectly okay to seek healthier ways to manage ADHD and stress. Remember, we’re all continuously learning and growing.


ADHD, Stress, and the Flight Response


The flight response, another typical reaction to stress among those with ADHD, involves avoidance. To escape stress, you might find yourself overworking, cleaning obsessively, or constantly making lists. Such behaviors are a common coping mechanism, especially for those who felt helpless during their childhood. While these actions might provide temporary relief, they can lead to problems in the long run.

As an adult, finding healthier ways to cope with ADHD and stress is key.


ADHD, Stress, and the Fawn Response

The fawn response represents efforts to maintain peace when under stress, often by pleasing or appeasing others. While this strategy might seem effective in the short term, it can lead to long-term burnout, stress, and overwhelm.

ADHD, Stress, and the Freeze Response

When faced with stress, some of us, particularly women with ADHD or anxiety, may freeze. We might avoid tasks, stay in bed, or feel incapable of fulfilling our responsibilities. This ‘deer in the headlights’ reaction is a legitimate survival response.




Building New Strategies for Managing ADHD and Stress

Here are some methods to better manage ADHD and stress:


  1. Recognize Stress Patterns: Understand stress is a part of life and it’s okay to feel stressed sometimes.
  2. Self-Accommodate: Learn to adjust your environment to reduce stress.
  3. Advocate for Yourself: Speak up for your needs. It’s okay to ask for what you need to feel less stressed.
  4. Set Limits: Know your boundaries and don’t push yourself too hard. It’s okay to say no.
  5. Care for Yourself: Eat healthily, sleep well, and do things that make you happy.
  6. Practice Self-Compassion: Be gentle with yourself. Remember, we’re all learning and growing.



Remember, replacing old patterns with healthier habits is a transformative process. These past reactions were protective mechanisms, and acknowledging them is the first step towards a positive change.



In our modern era, stress isn’t always a matter of life or death, but our brains often misinterpret it as such, leading to the fight, flight, or freeze response. To gain more insight into your body’s reactions, consider learning about the polyvagal theory. Here’s a link that explains what happens in your body during the freeze response.

Here’s a link  that explains what happens in your body during this response.


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