Fight, Flight or Freeze?

Our bodies are engineered to respond to a threat of ‘danger’ through fighting or flighting, this is how we survived back in our caveman days. Not only do we physically respond this way, but internally our bronchioles expand, to allow more oxygen into the body, our bodies also burn through that oxygen at a higher rate along with burning glucose at a higher rate as well. Additionally, our bodies also shut down our bodily functions that are not exactly needed for our survival per se, such as; immunity, reproductive organs and digestion. These types of responses increase our alertness and energy which is super helpful when needing to escape from predators because it allows us to run faster, further and fight harder.

However, we’re not exactly cavemen anymore, we, do not need to fight off rival gangs and run from bigger predators, but our bodies still triggers the ‘fight or flight’ response when we are emotionally threatened. Think about how you feel when you get into a heated argument with a family member or close friend, or how you feel when you receive a less than polite email from your boss, or even when you receive a bill that’s 10x more than you expected. Do you get heart palpitations? Do you feel your body start getting tense or shaky? In extreme cases of trauma, some people freeze in these types of events, which is completely normal, back in our caveman days we would freeze to make ourselves less of a target as we would appear much weaker and smaller. Generally speaking, people who freeze have suffered excessive trauma in their lives and will need ongoing support.

Anxiety is associated with fear. Usually, individuals suffering from anxiety are worried about a future threat, which is still a threat to our bodies, so we still have the same fight or flight response. However, with anxiety, it is a less intense response, but the downside of the response when anxiety is in play, our fight or flight response is long-lasting. Which means the possibility of danger is sitting in the back of our minds constantly and the body is ready for it. An individual suffering from anxiety is almost always ready for danger causing them to be tense, restless, and have unexplained stomach upsets etc. Understanding the flight or flight response can help us better manage the situation until our symptoms pass.

Published by Founder, We Chat Counselling

Hi, I’m Julz and I’m a professional counsellor, practising in Perth, WA. I’m here and committed to helping you set your mind free.

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