What Happens During Fight or Flight Response (2022)

Someone cut you off on the highway and you had to swerve andnarrowly avoided a collision.

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While out for a morning run, an angry dog jumps out onto your path and starts growling and barking at you.

In the second before you turned on the lights in your empty house,your coat rack looked like it was a person standing right next to you.

All three of these scenarios can trigger your body’s naturalfight or flight response, which is driven from your sympathetic nervous system.This response is your body’s reaction to danger and was designed to help yousurvive stressful and life-threating situations.

(Video) Fight or Flight Response

“The fight or flight response, or stress response, is triggered by a release of hormones either prompting us to stay and fight or run away and flee,” explains psychologist Carolyn Fisher, PhD. “During the response, all bodily systems are working to keep us alive in what we’ve perceived as a dangerous situation.”

Without you even telling it what to do, your body is assessing what’s going on around you and determining your options on how you most likely could survive the event.

Here’s what can happen during the stress response:

  • Yourheart rate and blood pressure increases. This means you’re probablybreathing more quickly and heavily, which is helping to move nutrients andoxygen out to your major muscle groups.
  • You’repale or have flushed skin. Your blood flow is being redirected so you mightexperience feeling cool or like your hands and feet are cold and clammy. Yourface might also appear flushed as blood and hormones circulate throughout yourbody.
  • Bluntpain response is compromised. If your sympathetic nervous system istriggered by combat or a collusion, it’s not uncommon to only feel yourinjuries once you’ve returned to safety and have had time to calm down. This isone reason that people in car accidents don’t typically feel pain from theirinjuries until afterwards.
  • Dilatedpupils. Your pupils will dilate to take in more light so that you can seebetter.
  • You’re onedge. You’re more aware and observant and in response you’re looking andlistening for things that could be dangerous. Your senses are heightened andyou’re keenly aware of what’s going on around you.
  • Memoriescan be affected. Sometimes during stressful experiences your memories ofthe event can be altered. Your memories can be very clear or vivid or they canbe blacked out.
  • You’re tenseor trembling. Stress hormones are circulating throughout your body, so you mightfeel tense or twitchy, like your muscles are about to move at any given moment.
  • Your bladder might be affected. It’s not uncommon to lose voluntary control of your bladder or bowels in a truly stressful or dangerous situation.

During the fight or flight response your body is trying to prioritize, so anything it doesn’t need for immediate survival is placed on the back burner. This means that digestion, reproductive and growth hormone production and tissue repair are all temporarily halted. Instead, your body is using all its energy on the most crucial priorities and functions.

The stress response can be triggered in a single instant, but how quickly you calm down and return to your natural state is going to vary from person to person (and it will depend on what caused it). Typically it takes 20 to 30 minutes for your body to return to normal and to calm down.

Fight or flight is supposed to work for us, not against us, right?

“Our fight or flight response was designed to help usthrough catastrophic circumstances,” says Dr. Fisher. “If you think about itfrom an evolution standpoint, it makes sense because we used to have a lot morelife-threatening emergencies.”

Back in the caveman days, danger was all around us andthreats were constant. We didn’t know where our next meal was coming from, wehad to brave the weather and we had to fight predators all around us. Arustling bush could be a lion or something else trying to kill you.

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(Video) A to Z of the Fight or Flight Response

And so our ancestors developed the stress response to helpus survive.

Fortunately in today’s word, real danger is few and farbetween, but that doesn’t mean we’ve lost our ability to trigger the fight orflight response. It might happen while you’re on an airplane that’s experiencingturbulence or when someone jumps out at you from a dark room. And it’ll morethan likely be triggered if you’re in a car accident, being robbed orexperiencing something else traumatic.

Where it gets tricky? It’s when your body starts triggering the fight or flight response during non-threating situations – like giving a big presentation, trying to make a deadline at work or merely thinking about a phobia, such as spiders or heights. These situations aren’t truly dangerous, but they’ve triggered our stress response and our body is reacting to it as if it was.

“In evolution, the stress response was designed to help us survive, but that’s not always how it plays out in today’s world,” says Dr. Fisher. “Our fight or flight response can now be activated from psychological or mental stress. For example, some individuals can activate it just thinking about work tomorrow.”

Living in a prolonged state of high alert and stress (when there isn’t any real reason for it) can be detrimental to your physical and mental health.

Imbalance: Sympathetic nervous system and parasympathetic nervous system

Your autonomic nervous system is a delicate balancing actbetween your sympathetic nervous system and your parasympathetic nervoussystem. Both networks involuntarily react to the environment around you.

Your sympathetic nervous system is responsible for how your body reacts to danger and is responsible for the fight or flight response. While your parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for maintaining homeostasis, which is your body’s built-in stability monitor. Think of it like a generator – making sure everything from your body temperature to your water intake is functioning smoothly. Your parasympathetic nervous system makes sure things are balanced. It works to relax you and helps conserve and restore energy.

(Video) The Stress Response- Fight or Flight

You need both systems to run properly.

“Think of your sympathetic nervous system and yourparasympathetic nervous system like your car’s gas and breaks,” explains Dr.Fisher. “You need to use both effectively for your car to run properly.”

You need your sympathetic nervous system to keep you alive when true danger is detected and you need your parasympathetic nervous system to restore and relax you so that your body can run business as usual.

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So if you find that your body is constantly reacting to every day stress with the fight or flight response – it should be a warning sign that your sympathetic and parasympathetic systems aren’t working together in harmony.

How to control the fight or flight response

“Often times stressors that aren’t life threating don’t havea clear on or off switch,” says Dr. Fisher. “That’s where we see some of thedetrimental effects of prolonged stress because it’s not going away. It’s achronic stress to our immune system.”

Work, bills, kids, your marriage, finances and health are some of the biggest non-life threatening stressors. How you interpret these things can affect your body’s reaction and can contribute to anxiety disorders.

(Video) "fight or flight response

“Some people are having the fight or flight response whenthey go to work or see that their kid didn’t clean up their room,” says Dr.Fisher. “It can vary from person to person in terms of the situations that cantrigger the stress response, but we’re finding that certain conditions orhealth states can be associated with this imbalance.”

Some people who get in a car accident are too afraid to drive again or can’t drive past the spot where the accident was because of fear and anxiety. It becomes a generalized fear response to a situation that isn’t particularly dangerous anymore. This can also happen with work or strained relationships. The next thing you know, your fight or flight response is falsely activated, putting you in a state of chronic stress.

Dr. Fisher says stress management is critical to overallhealth. It’s important to think big picture when you feel yourself starting toget worked up over something that you know is not a true threat or danger.

The fight or flight response is an important reaction that we all have and need, but it’s meant for true stress and danger. Everyone is going to have it in varying degrees for different reasons, but learning to slow down, be aware and conceptualize what’s actually happening can help you regain control.

“You need to get in touch with your individual physical,emotional and behavioral signs of stress,” says Dr. Fisher. “Maybe a migrainemeans you’ve had prolonged stress going on, so you need to tune into your bodyand what’s going on before it gets to a crisis point.”

If you’re at the point where stress is impacting your quality of life – talk to your doctor. Therapy, medication and stress management techniques can help you return to a more balanced state. It’s not a quick fix and you’ll have to work on it daily, but you should be proactive about stress.

The fight or flight response has a clear purpose and function, but it shouldn’t be activated over every day, non-threatening stressors like traffic, emails or bills. And if it is, the goal is to feel skilled at having an awareness when the response is activated, and to be able to bring yourself back to baseline.

FAQs

What happens during the flight or fight response? ›

Specifically, fight-or-flight is an active defense response where you fight or flee. Your heart rate gets faster, which increases oxygen flow to your major muscles. Your pain perception drops, and your hearing sharpens. These changes help you act appropriately and rapidly.

What happens to the body during the fight-or-flight response quizlet? ›

What Happens During the Fight-or-Flight Response? In response to acute stress, the body's sympathetic nervous

nervous
Afferent nerve fibers are the axons (nerve fibers) carried by a sensory nerve that relay sensory information from sensory receptors to regions of the brain. Afferent projections arrive at a particular brain region. Efferent nerve fibers are carried by efferent nerves and exit a region to act on muscles and glands.
https://en.wikipedia.org › wiki › Afferent_nerve_fiber
system is activated due to the sudden release of hormones. The sympathetic nervous system stimulates the adrenal glands triggering the release of catecholamines, which include adrenaline and noradrenaline.

How would you best explain what happens to the body when the fight-or-flight response is produced? ›

These glands respond by pumping the hormone epinephrine (also known as adrenaline) into the bloodstream. As epinephrine circulates through the body, it brings on a number of physiological changes. The heart beats faster than normal, pushing blood to the muscles, heart, and other vital organs.

What is the fight-or-flight response quizlet? ›

Fight-or-flight response. When a person experiences a threatening or stressful situation, the fight-or-flight response occurs. This response evolved as a survival mechanism, enabling animals and humans to react quickly to life-threatening situations.

What are the 3 stages of fight or flight? ›

There are three stages to stress: the alarm stage, the resistance stage and the exhaustion stage. The alarm stage is when the central nervous system is awakened, causing your body's defenses to assemble. This SOS stage results in a fight-or-flight response.

What happens to the body after a stressful situation? ›

When the body is stressed, the SNS contributes to what is known as the “fight or flight” response. The body shifts its energy resources toward fighting off a life threat, or fleeing from an enemy. The SNS signals the adrenal glands to release hormones called adrenalin (epinephrine) and cortisol.

What part of the nervous system is responsible for the body's fight-or-flight response? ›

Your sympathetic nervous system is a network of nerves that helps your body activate its “fight-or-flight” response. This system's activity increases when you're stressed, in danger or physically active.

What chemical is responsible for the fight-or-flight response quizlet? ›

Also known as adrenaline, a hormone secreted by the medulla (inner portion) of the adrenal gland, which (together with norepinephrine) brings about changes in the body known as the fight-or-flight response.

How do you get past fight-or-flight response? ›

Physical Activity
  1. Yoga, which may improve your ability to recover after a stressful event3.
  2. Tai chi, which could affect how your body reacts to stress and even improve your ability to cope with it4.
  3. Walking and walking meditation, which may reduce blood pressure (especially when combined with other relaxation techniques)5.
30 Mar 2021

What are some examples of fight or flight? ›

Our fight or flight response is a great adaptation for these types of threats: if a lion is going to attack you, you want your breathing and heart rate to increase so that your limbs have more oxygen and can either fight or run away as quickly and effectively as possible.

Who was the first to describe the fight-or-flight response? ›

The fight-or-flight or the fight-flight-or-freeze response (also called hyperarousal or the acute stress response) is a physiological reaction that occurs in response to a perceived harmful event, attack, or threat to survival. It was first described by Walter Bradford Cannon.

Which of the following is not part of the fight-or-flight response quizlet? ›

The fight or flight response initiated by the sympathetic nervous system is responsible for all of the following physiological responses EXCEPT: pupil contraction.

Which system prepares the body for a fight-or-flight response quizlet? ›

The sympathetic nervous

nervous
Afferent nerve fibers are the axons (nerve fibers) carried by a sensory nerve that relay sensory information from sensory receptors to regions of the brain. Afferent projections arrive at a particular brain region. Efferent nerve fibers are carried by efferent nerves and exit a region to act on muscles and glands.
https://en.wikipedia.org › wiki › Afferent_nerve_fiber
system is the part of the autonomic nervous system, which is involved in preparing the body for stress-related activities, such as the fight or flight response.

What is another word for fight-or-flight? ›

What is another word for fight-or-flight response?
adrenaline rushacute stress response
hyperarousalfight-or-flight reaction

What stage when a person experiences the flight or fight feeling? ›

The alarm reaction stage of the GAS prepares a person to respond to the stressor they are experiencing. This is often known as a “fight or flight” response.

How many stages fight-or-flight? ›

There are three stages of fight-or-flight: Alarm, Resistance and Exhaustion, the body's healthy response to a life-threatening crisis.

Can your body get stuck in fight-or-flight mode? ›

However, if you are under chronic stress or have experienced trauma, you can get stuck in sympathetic fight or flight or dorsal vagal freeze and fold. When this happens, it can lead to disruptions in everything from basic life skills like sleeping, self-care and eating, to complexities like learning and self-soothing.

How do you get your body out of fight-or-flight? ›

7 Techniques to Tame the Fight or Flight Response
  1. Eat well. Good nutrition is vital to reduce anxiety and your body's sensitive fight or flight response. ...
  2. Get Counseling. ...
  3. Get regular exercise. ...
  4. Concentrate on your senses. ...
  5. Breathe. ...
  6. Use positive self-talk. ...
  7. Use visualization techniques.
22 Jan 2022

How long does it take to get out of fight-or-flight mode? ›

The stress response can be triggered in a single instant, but how quickly you calm down and return to your natural state is going to vary from person to person (and it will depend on what caused it). Typically it takes 20 to 30 minutes for your body to return to normal and to calm down.

What part of the brain controls stress and anxiety? ›

The amygdala is responsible for the expression of fear and aggression as well as species-specific defensive behavior, and it plays a role in the formation and retrieval of emotional and fear-related memories.

What are the 5 trauma responses? ›

There are actually 5 of these common responses, including 'freeze', 'flop' and 'friend', as well as 'fight' or 'flight'. The freeze, flop, friend, fight or flight reactions are immediate, automatic and instinctive responses to fear. Understanding them a little might help you make sense of your experiences and feelings.

Which of these hormones are responsible for the fight-or-flight response to danger? ›

Epinephrine and norepinephrine. These hormones, secreted by the adrenal medulla, are responsible for the "fight or flight" response.

How long does it take for fight-or-flight to be triggered? ›

The effects of these responses take place within 20-30 seconds. In contrast, the immediate stress responses described in the beginning of this article are induced by the sympathetic nervous system and visible in a few seconds.

Which part of the brain activates the stress response quizlet? ›

The initial surge of adrenaline subsides, the hypothalamus activates a stress response system called the HPA axis. It consists of the hypothalamus, pituitary gland and the adrenal glands. Hypothalamus releases corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) into the bloodstream in response to the stressor.

Which body system is responsible for sensing stress? ›

The sympathetic nervous system prepares the body for sudden stress, like if you witness a robbery. When something frightening happens, the sympathetic nervous system makes the heart beat faster so that it sends blood quickly to the different body parts that might need it.

What are the 3 stages of the stress response? ›

[18] This syndrome is divided into the alarm reaction stage, resistance stage, and exhaustion stage. The alarm reaction stage refers to the initial symptoms of the body under acute stress and the "fight or flight" response.

How is fight or flight activated? ›

What Happens During the Fight-or-Flight Response. In response to acute stress, the body's sympathetic nervous system is activated due to the sudden release of hormones. The sympathetic nervous systems stimulate the adrenal glands triggering the release of catecholamines, which include adrenaline and noradrenaline.

What are some examples of fight or flight? ›

Our fight or flight response is a great adaptation for these types of threats: if a lion is going to attack you, you want your breathing and heart rate to increase so that your limbs have more oxygen and can either fight or run away as quickly and effectively as possible.

What are the 5 trauma responses? ›

There are actually 5 of these common responses, including 'freeze', 'flop' and 'friend', as well as 'fight' or 'flight'. The freeze, flop, friend, fight or flight reactions are immediate, automatic and instinctive responses to fear. Understanding them a little might help you make sense of your experiences and feelings.

How long does fight-or-flight last? ›

The stress response can be triggered in a single instant, but how quickly you calm down and return to your natural state is going to vary from person to person (and it will depend on what caused it). Typically it takes 20 to 30 minutes for your body to return to normal and to calm down.

Can stress make you lose your memory? ›

Stress, anxiety or depression can cause forgetfulness, confusion, difficulty concentrating and other problems that disrupt daily activities. Alcoholism. Chronic alcoholism can seriously impair mental abilities. Alcohol can also cause memory loss by interacting with medications.

In which stage of stress does the body prepare for fight-or-flight? ›

Alarm reaction stage

The alarm reaction stage refers to the initial symptoms the body experiences when under stress. You may be familiar with the “fight-or-flight” response, which is a physiological response to stress. This natural reaction prepares you to either flee or protect yourself in dangerous situations.

What hormone is released during fight-or-flight? ›

Through a combination of nerve and hormonal signals, this system prompts your adrenal glands, located atop your kidneys, to release a surge of hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol. Adrenaline increases your heart rate, elevates your blood pressure and boosts energy supplies.

What part of the brain initiates Fight-or-flight? ›

When the amygdala stimulates the hypothalamus, it initiates the fight-or-flight response. The hypothalamus sends signals to the adrenal glands to produce hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol.

Which gland is involved in the fight-or-flight response? ›

As part of the response, the adrenal glands release hormones including adrenaline, norepinephrine, and cortisol, which triggers the cascade of physiological responses, including an increase in temperature, heart rate, respiration rate, blood pressure, and energy expenditure.

What are 2 situations that could trigger a fight or flight response? ›

The fight-or-flight response can happen in the face of imminent physical danger, such as when encountering a growling dog during your morning jog. It can also be the result of a psychological threat, such as preparing to give a big presentation at school or work.

What happens to your body when you are stressed? ›

Your heart pounds faster, muscles tighten, blood pressure rises, breath quickens, and your senses become sharper. These physical changes increase your strength and stamina, speed up your reaction time, and enhance your focus—preparing you to either fight or flee from the danger at hand.

Why do I freeze in fight or flight? ›

The fight, flight, or freeze response refers to involuntary physiological changes that happen in the body and mind when a person feels threatened. This response exists to keep people safe, preparing them to face, escape, or hide from danger.

What is the f of trauma? ›

The 5 F's of Trauma Response

We actually have 5 hardwired responses to trauma: fight, flight, freeze, flop, and friend. In a moment of danger, these responses all happen automatically to try to keep us safe.

Why do I freeze instead of fight or flight? ›

In other words, a child that suffered from constant anxiety and fear due to trauma may develop a tendency to freeze as a response to triggers as an adult. Those who froze as a response often as children may develop a tendency towards disassociation, anxiety or panic disorders, and even post-traumatic stress disorder.

Videos

1. Dr. Ajit Singh | Fight and flight response
(rosehubTV)
2. The Flight or Fight Response
(MindWell)
3. Ways to Turn Off Your Fight or Flight Response
(University of California Television (UCTV))
4. Sympathetic Nervous System: Crash Course Anatomy & Physiology #14
(CrashCourse)
5. Physiological Affects of Fight Or Flight
(Nick Drossos Defensive Tactics)
6. What happens in fight or flight and how does it affect my body ?
(mark powlett hypnotherapy)

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