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  • Nadezhda Markova

Code meets couch: Kernel panic & freeze response

‘Code meets couch’ is a project that integrates concepts from psychology and IT, aimed at increasing mental health awareness at workplace.*


Today we’ll have a look at the similarities between kernel panic (IT) and freeze response (psychology):



  • A kernel panic is known to be a safety measure taken by an operating system to lower the risk of severe damage.

Also known as the „blue screen of death“ (for Windows), kernel panic leads to restarting the computer, losing all the work that hasn’t been saved. All applications and database are temporarily not available.


  • In psychology freezing is usually a response to a traumatic or a threatening situation.

When facing a challenging or anxiety-provoking situation, some people may freeze (physically or mentally). For example, when having a feedback session with a team lead, an employee might freeze and not know what to say, because they feel threatened by the situation.

Freezing is different from „playing dead,” as it actively prepares the individual for further action.

Just as a kernel panic is a temporary shut-down, which enables the OS to continue working afterwards, freezing typically doesn't last long.


An occasional experience of freezing usually isn’t problematic, neither is a rare case of kernel panic. But if you often freeze, block or experience high level of anxiety this might impact your workflow and quality of life.

In such cases updating your OS (or your psychological coping strategies) would be beneficial.

* Why the name ‘Code meets couch’?

Back in the days, Sigmund Freud used to let his clients lie down on a couch while talking about their feelings and thoughts.

Nowadays, psychotherapy usually has a different setting (client and therapist sit and talk, facing each other), but the couch has remained a symbol of psychotherapy.

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