Fight or flight

Our normal biological reaction when we feel threatened is ‘fight or flight’. Anxiety is related to this and is what gives us the unpleasant feelings of fear and unease that we have when we are worried or nervous about something. We all know what it’s like to feel anxious from time to time. It’s common to feel tense, nervous and perhaps fearful at the thought of a stressful event or decision you’re facing – especially if it could have a big impact on your life.
In stressful situations you might even find it hard to sleep, eat or concentrate. Then usually, after a short while or when the situation has passed, the feelings of worry stop.

What is the ‘fight or flight’ response?

Human beings, like all other animals, have evolved ways to help us protect ourselves from dangerous, life-threatening situations. When you feel under threat your body releases hormones, such as adrenalin and cortisol, which help physically prepare you to either fight the danger or run away from it. These hormones can make you feel more alert, so you can act faster and make your heart beat faster to carry blood to where it is needed most. Then when you feel the danger has passed, your body releases other hormones to help your muscles relax, which may cause you to shake. This is what is known as the ‘fight or flight’ response – it’s something that happens automatically in our bodies, and we have no control over it.

In modern society we don’t usually face situations where we need to physically fight or flee from danger, but our biological response to feeling threatened is still the same.

Jan Diaz Penfold Pgdip – Counsellor.