What is the Fight or Flight Response Mechanism?

When we perceive danger or feel threatened, our fight or flight response is activated and prepares us to meet the threat.

When this happens, hormones like adrenaline and cortisol surge and the body goes into high alert mode. Our blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate, overall body tension, and general alertness increase almost instantly and prime us for action – to either fight or flee.

The stress response is meant to protect us in life and death threatening situations that are short term, not extended or prolonged. While modern life doesn’t typically bring life and death threats, our fight or fight mechanism – or our stress response mechanism – which is left over from when we were cavemen, remains in place and reacts to many types of lessor modern day stressors.

These symptoms are a natural part of the body’s fight or flight reaction. Our body will respond whether the threat is real or imagined, and it will even respond to memories. If we feel fear it will act to be sure that we are safe.

We aren’t typically in a situation where we can fight or run away, so the chemicals that have been released in our body have no way of getting used. As a result, we might feel nauseous and experience indigestion and headaches when our body goes in high alert mode. We sometimes sweat more, feel aches and pains, start to breathe faster. In the long-term there might be a risk of strokes and heart attacks.

As long as stressful experiences are brief and infrequent, the body quickly returns to normal, and recovers from our fight or flight reaction. But a person who is in a continuous state of stress throughout every day may experience a wide variety of potential negative long term health effects.

The solution to excess chronic stress and the affects of our fight or flight response being triggered is to either eliminate the cause of stress or learn how to relieve the stress.