The Fight and Flight Reaction

The fight and flight response is our body’s primitive, automatic, inborn response that prepares the body to “fight” or “flee” from perceived attack, harm or threat to our survival. I decided to test the question how this fight and flight response effects the body. How it effects the cardiovascular system ( pulse rate) , the respiratory system, And Watch out for angry red faces, cold and clammy skin, signs of a dry mouth, increased breathing rates and jitteriness from activated muscles, etc. It really interested me because my brother asked me ” why do we get scared?

” and I honestly didn’t know so I researched it and I decided to do this as my science experiment. The fight or flight response is the body’s physiological response to a stressor. Changes in hormones prepare a person to either stay and deal with a stressor or to take flight . During this immediate state of alarm a person will be extremely alert to their surroundings but also very anxious and possibly unable to concentrate. The body will slow down systems which are not vital for responding to the stressor , which is why a person in a fight or flight situation may have a dry mouth and a nervous or upset stomach.

The body will activate other mechanisms such as the need to cool the body as more energy is used, which is why we can perspire when the fight or flight response is activated. The response is triggered when a message of alarm is sent to a part of the brain called the hypothalamus. This area of the brain will then send a signal to the glands to release adrenaline, cortisol and endorphin into the blood stream. Increased levels of adrenaline increase heart rate and blood flow, which in turn brings extra oxygen and glucose to the muscles. Cortisol causes an increase in amino-acids and sugars in the blood.

Amino-acids are crucial for the repair and recovery of damaged tissues and the increased blood sugar adds to the availability of glucose for the body. The release of endorphin, which is a morphine like substance, provides the body with a natural tranquilizing system. Pain is blocked and a feeling of euphoria may be experienced. Both help the body to get through the situation it finds itself in due to stress. To protect ourselves in a world of psychological? rather than physical? danger, we must consciously pay attention to unique signals telling us whether we are actually in fight or flight.

Some of us may experience these signals as physical symptoms like tension in our muscles, headache, upset stomach, racing heartbeat, deep sighing or shallow breathing. Others may experience them as emotional or psychological symptoms such as anxiety, poor concentration, depression, hopelessness, frustration, anger, sadness or fear. Excess stress does not always show up as the “feeling” of being stressed. Many stresses go directly into our physical body and may only be recognized by the physical symptoms we manifest. Two excellent examples of stress induced conditions are “eye twitching” and “teeth-grinding.

” Conversely, we may “feel” lots of emotional stress in our emotional body and have very few physical symptoms or signs in our body. By recognizing the symptoms and signs of being in fight or flight, we can begin to take steps to handle the stress overload. There are benefits to being in fight or flight? even when the threat is only psychological rather than physical. For example, in times of emotional jeopardy, the fight or flight response can sharpen our mental acuity, thereby helping us deal decisively with issues, moving us to action.

But it can also make us hyper vigilant and over-reactive during times when a state of calm awareness is more productive. By learning to recognize the signals of fight or flight activation, we can avoid reacting excessively to events and fears that are not life threatening. In so doing, we can play “emotional judo” with our fight or flight response, “using” its energy to help us rather than harm us. We can borrow the beneficial effects (heightened awareness, mental acuity and the ability to tolerate excess pain) in order to change our emotional environment and deal productively with our fears, thoughts and potential dangers.

The relaxation response, discovered by the inspirational author and Harvard cardiologist, Herbert Benson, M. D. , represents a hard-wired antidote to the fight or flight response. The relaxation response corresponds to a physical portion of the brain (located in the hypothalamus) which? when triggered? sends out neurochemicals that almost precisely counteract the hyper vigilant response of the fight or flight response. When we follow the simple steps necessary to elicit the relaxation response, we can predictably measure its benefits on the body.

These include: a decrease in blood pressure, diminished respiratory rate, lower pulse rate, diminished oxygen consumption, increase in alpha brain waves (associated with relaxation), and in many cases, an improved sense of mental and spiritual well-being. Because the relaxation response is hard-wired, we do not need to believe it will work, any more than we need to believe our leg will jump when the doctor taps our patellar tendon with a little red hammer. The relaxation response is a physiologic response, and as such, there are many ways to elicit it, just as there are many ways to increase our pulse rate (another physiologic response).

The solution to over activation of our fight or flight response is simple: when we take the time to exercise our relaxation response “muscle” we will enjoy the beneficial physiological, biochemical and mental effects. These beneficial effects are measurable whether we believe in the relaxation response or not. Some people do experience immediate emotional calm and tranquility when they learn to elicit the relaxation response, but others do not. We cannot measure the effectiveness of the relaxation response based on how it feels. Dr.

Benson likens this to brushing our teeth. We know brushing is “good” for us, whether we feel it works or not. Feeling good is an added benefit. The most important thing is to actually take the time and discipline necessary to elicit the relaxation response. Once elicited, the benefits to our overstressed physiology and biochemistry will be experienced. Additionally, we bypass the fear and anxiety that so quickly narrows our perceptions and infects our beliefs with suspicion and doubt. The fight and flight response can be very beneficial and harmful to the body.

It is good to fight off enemies but when our fight and flight reaction is activated to much it can be deadly. Which is why I am testing the different ways our body reacts to the fight and flight reaction. Bibliography 1. http://www. green-river. com/_disc14stress/00000034. htm 2. http://members. aol. com/nonverbal3/fight. htm 3 . http://changingminds. org/explanations/brain/fight_flight. htm 4 . http://www. hhmi. org/cgi-bin/askascientist/highlight. pl? kw=&file=answers%2Fgeneral%2Fans_003. html.

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