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What is the “Fight or Flight Response”?

man struggles with response to stress

“Fight or flight” is a term first used in the 1920s to describe the human body’s reaction to a perceived threat.  The phrase refers to the critical choice our early human ancestors likely faced every day in the face of danger—to either stay and fight, or turn and run away.  The fight or flight response can cause physical and visible symptoms such as sweating, shaking, and dilated pupils. The process readies the body for action, even in situations where no physical response is required. While this evolutionary response makes a great deal of sense when a bear is chasing you, it doesn’t serve us quite so well when we need to speak publicly or socialize. Some people may be able to harness this nervous energy to perform better under pressure, but for others who suffer from anxiety and panic disorder, the fight or flight response can be overwhelming and debilitating. 

Saturated In Perceived Threats

Some experts point to our modern lifestyles as the root of anxiety disorder.  Those of us that are fortunate enough to live in developed countries are usually not running from wild animals or physically fighting with other humans over food and resources.  Most of the threats we encounter are either emotional or entirely imagined. The fight or flight response may be triggered by a verbal confrontation with your boss or a family member, or as a result of mental catastrophizing.  For those of us that live with anxiety, the worst-case scenario of almost every situation is always playing in the background of our minds. This too, is a form of fight or flight. By anticipating what may go wrong with every step, our ancestral brains are working out how to react to a threat that may not even exist. The human stress response can be a healthy and functional way to harness focus and overcome obstacles.  For those living with mental illness, however, the fight or flight response can prevent enjoyment in everyday activities.  Many people turn to drugs or alcohol to numb the symptoms of overwhelming anxiety, and may develop an addiction in the process.  If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction and mental health issues, now is the time to reach out for help. At Arbor Behavioral Healthcare, you will meet knowledgeable, compassionate professionals that understand addiction in all its forms.  

The Arbor uses an integrative and holistic approach to treat addiction and mental health issues.  No treatment is one-size-fits-all, and at The Arbor you will have a team of experts prepared to create your customized treatment plan.  We offer care for your mind, body, and spirit, so that you can heal from the inside out and look forward to a lifetime of sobriety and wellness.  If you are ready to take the first step in your recovery, please call us at 844-413-2690.