What Is the Fight-or-Flight Response?

fight-or-flight response is an active defensive response in which individuals either fight or flee (Photo by Nik Shuliahin on Unsplash)
fight-or-flight response is an active defensive response in which individuals either fight or flee (Photo by Nik Shuliahin on Unsplash)

A fight-or-flight reaction is an instantaneous physiological reaction to a stressful or frightening event. Threat perception activates the sympathetic nervous system, resulting in an intense stress response that forces the body to fight or flee.

These responses are human evolutionary adaptations that increase the likelihood of survival in dangerous situations. Excessive, intense, or inappropriate activation of the response to a fight-or-flight situation has been linked to a variety of clinical conditions, the majority of them being anxiety and depression.

The fight-or-flight response is an active defensive response in which individuals either fight or flee. The heart rate increases, increasing the oxygen supply to the major muscle groups. Meanwhile, pain perception decreases while hearing improves. These changes enable one to act appropriately and quickly.

In response, these glands release the fight-or-flight hormone epinephrine (also known as adrenaline) into the blood system. A number of physiological changes occur as epinephrine circulates throughout the body. The heart beats quicker than usual, directing blood toward the muscles, heart, and other major organs.


What Happens During the Fight-or-Flight Response?

 Heart rate and tension can be felt rising (Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash)
Heart rate and tension can be felt rising (Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash)

1. The Blood Pressure and Heart Rate Rise

This means that breathing becomes more rapid and heavy, which aids in the movement of nutrients and oxygen to the major muscle groups.

2. Memories Can be Harmed

During stressful situations, memories of the occasion can be modified. Your memories may be very clear and vivid, or they may be completely blacked out.

3. People Become Tense or Tremble

As stress hormones circulate throughout the body, one may feel tense or twitchy, as if the muscles are about to move at any moment.

4. The Bladder May be Impacted

In a truly stressful or vulnerable position, it is not uncommon to lose conscious control of the bladder or bowels.


What Is the Meaning of Freeze and Fawn?

Stress response causes you to feel trapped (Photo by Lacie Slezak on Unsplash)
Stress response causes you to feel trapped (Photo by Lacie Slezak on Unsplash)

Stress responses that do not involve decisive actions include freezing and fawning.

Freeze:

This stress response causes you to feel trapped and occurs when the body does not believe it is capable of fighting or fleeing.

The following are symptoms of the freeze response:

  • Fearful mood
  • Skin tone lightens
  • Stiffness, heaviness, coldness, and numbness
  • Heart pounds loudly
  • Heart rate reduction

Fawn:

This response follows a failed fight-or-flight or freeze attempt. The fawn response is most common in people who grew up in abusive homes or situations.

The following are examples of fawn responses:

  • Over-agreement
  • Attempting to be excessively helpful
  • The primary goal is to make someone else happy

The three greatest basic stress responses are fight-or-flight and freeze. They inform how your body will react to hazards. Fawn, however, is the fourth stress response discovered later.

The flight response is your body's aggressive response to any perceived threat. Flight indicates that your body is urging you to flee from danger. The inability of your body to move or act in response to a threat is referred to as freezing. Fawn is your body's stress response to avoid conflict by trying to please someone.

Fight-or-flight, freeze, and fawn responses aim to reduce, eliminate, or evade danger and return to a calm and relaxed state.


Why Is Fight-or-Flight Response Important?

One is best prepared to perform under stress if one prepares your body for action (Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash)
One is best prepared to perform under stress if one prepares your body for action (Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash)

This response is crucial in how we deal with stress and danger in our surroundings. The response essentially prepares the body to fight or flee the threat. It is also worth noting that the reaction can be triggered by both real and imagined threats.

One is best prepared to perform under stress if one prepares your body for action. Stress caused by the situation can be beneficial, increasing the likelihood of effectively dealing with the threat. This type of stress can help people perform better when they are under pressure to perform well, such as at work or school.


Controlling The Fight-or-Flight Response

Strain management is an essential component of overall health improvement (Photo by Zac Durant on Unsplash)
Strain management is an essential component of overall health improvement (Photo by Zac Durant on Unsplash)

Anxiety disorders can cause a fight-or-flight response to being triggered even when one is not in danger. Unfortunately, chronic stress has negative consequences. Tissues that cause stress responses differ from person to person. Some environmental or health conditions, however, can be linked to the response.

Strain management is an essential component of overall health improvement. Identifying physiological, emotional, and behavioral stress signs can assist one in analyzing and working to overcome them through techniques like yoga and meditation. This will help one determine whether they are truly under attack and if the nervous system is overreacting.


Takeaway

Flight-or-flight is an important response system that we all have and require, but it is only appropriate in situations of genuine stress and danger. Everyone will have it to varying degrees for various reasons, but having to learn to slow down, be aware, and conceptualize what's going on can help individuals regain control.

Edited by Susrita Das