I wanted to go over this response system in order to write a related post next week. When that post is complete I will link it to the bottom of this one, and vice versa. It is just I do not want the length to deter anyone from digging into the depth of this topic.
What’s Fight or Flight?
Most of us have heard of the Fight or Flight response which is triggered by a threat, stress, frightening situations, and dangerous situations. The automatic nervous system (ANS) then triggers certain physiological responses. It is important to note it is a ‘perceived threat’ not necessarily a bear about to attack you from your closet.
The basic biology of it
As I said about the ANS is triggered which is composed of the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous systems. The fight or flight response is involved with the sympathetic nervous system.
The sympathetic nervous system then stimulates our adrenal glands to release such things as adrenaline and noradrenaline.
The physiological responses triggered from fight, flight or freeze responses
- Eyes– the pupils will dilite. So we can take in more light to improve our eyesight to attend to the ‘danger’. (May notice ‘tunnel vision’ or ‘sharper’ vision)
- Ears- Hearing becomes more attuned and ‘sharper’.
- Lungs– The breathing quickens and becomes more shallow in order to get more oxygen to the muscles.
- Mouth– Dry mouth is common as blood constriction in the area tempoary stops the salivary glads from, well, producing salivia.
- Heart– The heart rate will increase so that it can feed more blood, oxygen and energy into the body- prepping us to fight or flight.
- Skin- You face will get flushed, while you will get pale. This is because blood is being sent to where it will be most needed, namely: brain, muscles, legs, arms
- Stomach– When blood is directed away from the digestive system we can get that fluttery ‘butterflies’ feeling.
- Overall tense muscles- The body is preparing for action which can make them tense, shaky or tremble.
- Pain– When these responses are trigger, pain is dampened. Basic survival mode.
- Mind– Our thoughts begin to go nuts- racing. This is meant to help us think faster so we can respond to the danger. But we may also hyperfocus on the danger. Can cause one to get dizzy or feel light-headed- if we feel like Flight but do not Do it, that can cause that feeling. Which I am familiar with when it comes to public speaking.
But there can also be emotional responses.
A person in fight or flight may feel extremely alert, agitated, confrontational, or like they need to leave a room or location. A severe fight or flight response can become a panic attack. It can also trigger asthma attacks in people with the condition.Medical News Today
The American physiologist, Walter Cannon, came up with the term which he also called ‘The acute stress response’.
Cannon remarked that this process happened unconsciously and automatically and served the function of helping the animal to defend itself in life-threatening situations by prepping the body to run or fight.Simply Psychology
The basics of Fight, Flight, Freeze
- Fight– Face whatever the perceived threat may be, even aggressively
- Flight- Yeah, screw this business… I’m outta here!
- Feeze– Maybe if I stand really, really still the threat will not even notice me.
Whether in physical danger or threat, or psychological perceived danger… we have all had these sorts of responses.
Fight– What?! You just insulted my loved one! I am going to TEAR YOU A NEW ONE!
Flight- *Gets up to public speak* Hey, I’m Nikki… *Panic* I, um, uh *Panic more*
Feeze– *Gets up to do Kareokee* *Starts to sing and realizes people are LOOKING at ME* *Starts to sing quieter… quieter… completely loses voice and capacity to sing all together in full-on frozen mode.*
Getting into the depths of each response
while the fight or flight or freeze or fawn response happens automatically, sometimes it is activated with no real reason or danger; therefore, it is not always accurateSimply Psychology
The reason it is good to understand each of these is to understand our reactions under perceived threat and high stress. When we see how we respond then we can begin to start to manage our response. Anxiety is one condition where we can feel threatened by non-threatening stressors. But it isn’t the only condition that can complicate our Fight, Flight or Freeze response as we will explore in my next post.
FIGHT- signs you are experiencing a fight response
- Grinding your teeth and/or clenching your jaw
- The desire to punch someone or something
- Feeling intense anger, even to the point of harming someone, or yourself
- Desire to stomp or kick or slam a door
- Glaring at people
- Upset stomach (Knotted, burning)
- Attacking the percieved danger
FLIGHT- Signs of experiencing the flight response
- Excessive exercise
- Feeling fidgety or edgy
- Feeling overly tense or trapped
- Restlessly moving legs, feet, and arms
- Overall restless body that you can’t stop moving
- Numbness in extremities
- Dilated eyes
FREEZE- Signs of a freeze response
Reduce the impact of the event: A 2017 articleTrusted Source suggests that the freeze response may be related to dissociation. Dissociation is something that can occur when a person has a traumatic experience. It makes severely distressing events feel less real, causing a person to feel numb or detached. This may explain why the freeze response is more common in people with previous experiences of trauma.Medical News today
In addition to reducing the impact of the event, Freezing can help us prepare to act, help someone else to hide, and improve our visual perception.
- Pale skin
- Sense of dread or doom
- Feeling stiff, heavy, cold, numb
- Pounding heart rate
- Decreased heart rate
- Sensing tolerated stress
The one I haven’t discussed in this post is FAWN which is a trauma response.
When to seek help
- When these responses become overly intense, at inapproriate times, and/or very frequent
- Strong fear in non-threatening situations
- Continously feeling “on edge”
- Worry, nervousness, or fear that will not go away
- Stress that interferes with our daily life
- fear of nonthreatening situations
- Inability to relax