Fight or Flight Response: Meaning & Significance

The phrase "fight-or-flight" refers to the two options our forebears had to confront threats in the wild. The physical and mental changes that occur in reaction to tension help to ready the body to respond in the face of adversity. American biologist Walter Bowman first described the combat reflex in the 1910s. It dawned on Cannon that the body may respond to danger by setting in motion a series of processes that happen very quickly and mobilize the brain's reserves. It is now accepted that the fight-or-flight reaction represents the beginning of the stress response, as described by Hans Selye's universal adaption syndrome.

Explaining Fight or Flight Response

When confronted with severe stress, the body releases a flood of hormones, including those that stimulate the sympathetic nervous model. Aldosterone hormone, as well as brand name hormones, are sex hormones involved in the body's "fight or flight" reflex. The sympathetic nervous model responds to these substances by stimulating the hypothalamic and cortisol glands. The image appears like epinephrine, dopamine, or cortisol are secreted due to this stimulus. Due to these interconnected processes, the pace at which one's heart beats, blood pressure rises, and breaths quicken. The parasympathetic and sympathetic model will take 10–50 mins to bring the organism before the levels. Thus the body may remain in the fight–or–flight mode long after the danger has passed. The passionate nervous model stimulates the body's "fight or flight" reaction, whereas the parasympathetic division is responsible for restoring equilibrium once the danger has passed

Symptoms of Fight or Flight Response

Major symptoms are

Change in the Pupil

The human body readies itself to become even more vigilant when threatened. Pupils that are dilated let in more light, improving visibility in dim conditions.

Change of the Skin Color

Cardiac output to the skin is decreased while blood rushes toward the lungs, brain, legs, and forearms and is enhanced during a fight-or-flight response. Due to the increased blood flow to the brain and scalp, it is typical to experience temporary pallor or a pulsating redness of the face. When injured, the skin's capacity to close the wound quickly rises.

Change in Heartrate

The increased pace of breathing and heart rate helps the body get the energy and food it needs to react swiftly in dangerous situations.

Change in Physical movement

Trembling or quivering may occur as a result of muscular tension as well as readiness for a response.

Benefits of Fight or Flight Response

The fight-or-flight reaction is essential to coping with stress and threats. Our bodies respond whenever we feel threatened by getting ready to fight or run away. Getting one's mind ready for action can be helpful when the stakes are high. The anxiety induced by the predicament may be beneficial, increasing the likelihood that one might respond appropriately to the danger. One may benefit from this stress in a high-stakes environment like the workplace or school. Whenever the instinct to hurt others is redirected into a protective one, the flight-or-fight reaction may have positive consequences, according to some researchers. It may be helpful when unpleasant feelings such as wrath or terror set off the body's fight-or-flight reaction. The fight-or-flight reaction is essential to one's life when the danger is severe. The fight-or-flight reaction improves one's odds of survival in dangerous situations by preparing one to either fight back or run away.

Disadvantages of Fight or Flight Response

The fight-or-flight reaction is instantaneous, but this does not imply it is always reliable. The absence of a genuine danger only sometimes prevents us from reacting this way. The fight-or-flight reaction may be activated with genuine and perceived dangers. The fight-or-flight reaction can be inappropriately activated in the face of perceived danger, as shown in phobia cases. While in a permanent cycle of fight-or-flight, including in response to prolonged stress, it may also be detrimental to health.

Instances of Fight or Flight Response

Whenever faced with an obvious physical threat, like when one comes face to face with a snarling dog while out for one's jog, the body responds with a fight-or-flight reaction. For instance, preparation for a major performance at college or business might also trigger this. A person's fight-or-flight reaction may also kick in if they are afraid of heights yet have to go to a conference on the highest floor of the building. Their body may go into fight-or-flight mode, speeding up their pulse and breathing. A panic attack may result from a very intense reaction

Importance of Fight or Flight Response

Survival in life-or-death circumstances often depends on the physiological response linked with fight or flight. Nonetheless, most people with anxiety disorders or other diseases might well have threat circuits that have gotten excessive or are not adequately kept in check by activities in the nervous model's parasympathetic model. Recognizing the fight-or-flight reflex is useful for treating many people with anxiety disorders. Anxiety sufferers might benefit from learning about the fight-or-flight reaction as an instance of a "decatastrophizing" strategy because they are less likely to mistake the physical symptoms connected with this reflex for indicators of an imminent disaster. Individuals with reply distress (PTSD) may also interpret greater physiological responses as a sign of actual danger. Learning about the fight-or-flight reflex might help individuals feel safer and enable patients to use calming and centering techniques.


In the ever-expanding discipline of psychology, chronic stress is one of the core areas of inquiry. Mental health counselors are concerned with assisting their clients in reducing their stress levels and improving their general health and well-being. Psychologists may aid their patients in finding healthy methods to deal with anxiety by expanding their understanding of the fight-or-flight reflex.

Updated on: 03-Jan-2023


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