Anxiety may be an unpleasant feeling but it is not at all completely undesirable. In fact, it is an element of the body’s defense mechanism, just like animals do. It is natural to feel anxious especially in threat-invoking circumstances or when you feel excessively stressed out.Using a certain defense mechanism shields us from possible danger. The mind responds to the feeling of anxiety and tells the body what to do— either to “fight” and face the situation, or run away and avoid the situation which is called “flight”.
The Physiology of “Fight of Flight” Response
The fight or flight response is the body’s natural reaction and a form of defense strategy to a possible threat or danger. Explained physiologically, the systems and functions of our body change during a threatening situation. It corresponds to the part of our brain known as the hypothalamus which discharges chemical releases preparing the body for such reaction.This concept of survival technique used to apply only during a dangerous situation when we are prompted to prepare ourselves physically for any form of attack like when you walk down a dark and deserted area and a man suddenly shows up in front of you. It is designed to shield us from unwanted hazards. But now it is also true to situations where physical reaction is not always necessary, such as that of a stressful day in the office and heavy traffic situations. So, it is not just a protection for physical attack but also for emotional triggers.
Signs of Fight or Flight Response
Adrenalin and cortisol are released which cause the pumping of the blood to increase, thus, speeding up the heart rate and releasing intense energy and strength. Blood is then pumped heavily on the muscles and limbs to give extra energy in case you choose to run away. Paling or flushing also develops and even our pupils dilate. Our levels of awareness and vigilance increase. The levels of impulse and sudden urges also intensify and our sight becomes more sensitive and sharp. Our immune system automatically activates, eliminating the idea of pain. We feel and experience these signs when we are inside the mall and a bomb threat is suddenly announced, when in a confrontation with an officemate, or in any situation that may prompt feelings of anxiety, stress, and sudden fear.
A common type of short term anxiety attacks is the panic attack. Fight or flight response is readily manifested during sudden panic. Any unexpected or abrupt situation that comes to you triggers you to feel sudden fright or terror. This is no different from facing an immediate danger.Take this situation in the work setting. Your boss suddenly invites you for a private talk in the office. You start to feel the tension in your body, not knowing what lies ahead of you, considering that the company is laying off employees as a cutting down measure in an unhealthy economic condition. Nervousness starts to creep in the nerves as you walk toward the office. A sudden feeling of panic comes into you. And then, your boss tells you that you just got promoted. The surge of adrenalin gradually dies down and the body functions start going back to normal.
During panic attacks, we tend to recognize everything around us as a possible threat. The normal function of our brain changes automatically to an “attack” or “flee” mode. Sometimes, we respond inappropriately to a situation that does not actually pose any danger, but only the thought that there is coming danger intensifies the sudden fear. This is the concept of panic attacks. We use the fight or flight mechanism to our irrational and illogical thinking that threat is all over the place, without being able to identify the source of danger.
The fight or flight response is a helpful natural defense system when faced with a challenging situation. It is even efficient in combating the feeling of stress and anxiety. It is only important to remain in a state of consciousness during a threatening situation or when you feel like danger is present. The mind naturally starts to worry and thoughts start to race but remaining logical in your manner of thinking will make the situation less threatening.