The Freeze Response Can Lead to Procrastination After Abuse

July 28, 2022 Cheryl Wozny

Many individuals are familiar with the fight, flight, or freeze response to trauma.1 However, one thing I have learned after years of exposure to verbal abuse is that this automatic response can lead to detrimental procrastination in other areas of my life. 

The Freeze Response Leads Me to Procrastination

One contributing element of the fight, flight, freeze response I find that still has a strong hold on my life even today is the freeze response. When I face something traumatic or triggering, I will often freeze, unsure how to proceed. Part of this behavior comes from slowly learning to retrain my brain to react differently to present situations rather than the past. 

I am still healing and need time to process a circumstance before I proceed. However, this freeze response inevitably leads me to significant procrastination. 

Procrastination Turns to Low Self-Worth

After careful examination, I've realized that when I am stressed or face a particularly stressful situation, my body responds as it would to my past verbal abuse trauma. My body sees the stress as a threat and is unsure how to proceed, making me stop and run away from the problem. 

Although this response can be helpful in dangerous situations, it has no place in everyday life. When my days include procrastination, I notice that it has a damaging effect on my self-esteem. Once I recognize these negative emotions, I often turn to thoughts of despair and low self-worth. I begin to think that if I was more organized, talented, professional, or better than I currently am, I could successfully complete a task on time. My brain begins its harmful cycle of damaging thoughts and chips away at my self-esteem and the belief in my abilities to do a task.  

Change Is Possible 

Moving away from harmful procrastination is possible once you recognize that a stressful situation does not threaten your safety. This change will need time and practice as you retrain your brain to see everyday stressors as harmless. With strategies I've learned through therapy, I am slowly inching forward, away from procrastination. 

If you are a chronic procrastinator and suffer from a past verbally abusive situation, it can be beneficial to look at the real reason why you avoid completing tasks. With therapy and skills to retrain your brain, you can break free from verbal abuse symptoms like procrastination and live a healthier, happier life. 


  1. Fight / Flight / Freeze Response. (n.d.). The University of Toledo. Retrieved August 6, 2022, from

APA Reference
Wozny, C. (2022, July 28). The Freeze Response Can Lead to Procrastination After Abuse, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 14 from

Author: Cheryl Wozny

Cheryl Wozny is a freelance writer and published author of several books, including mental health resources for children titled, Why Is My Mommy So Sad? and Why is My Daddy So Sick? Writing has become her way of healing and helping others. Find Cheryl on TwitterInstagramFacebook, and her blog

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