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Fear Response (Fight/Flight/Freeze)

One of the first things I explain to people I support is how we actually create anger, anxiety, low mood (fight-flight-freeze), OCD etc and what we can do to help ourselves. As you can image, sharing the science does not act as a magic wand, it won't remove these responses, however it provides information. Information provides education. Education provides critical thinking. Critical thinking skills can help a person think clearly and rationally when the situation demands it. It helps you solve problems.


When we experience fear, our bodies response of fight-flight-freeze is our natural reaction to danger/threat - this threat can also be perceived. It's an automatic response - please read the word automatic; we are not making conscious decisions. We are hardwired to feel fear as it keeps us safe from harmful situations, for example fear of loud noises and fear of low flying birds. Sometimes our response can be overactive i.e. we have learned to respond this way to nonthreatening situations. This can happen if we experience a traumatic event and we develop an exaggerated fear response. If you have a history of trauma or anxiety your body might have learned to overact to nonthreatening situations. I mentioned it above, however it is worth mentioning again, your response to threats (perceived or not) is automatic.


As soon as you recognise fear (this can be through any of your senses) your amygdala (small organ in the middle of your brain) goes to work. It alerts your nervous system, which sets your body's fear response into motion. Stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline are released. Here are some of the physical effects you might experience:


  • Skin - your skin might produce more sweat or get cold

  • Eyes - pupils dilate and your peripheral vision increases

  • Ears - your hearing becomes sharper

  • Blood vessels - vessels supplying muscles dilate while those to internal organs narrow; blood pressure rises. Blood also thickens

  • Heart - beats faster and more forcefully

  • Lungs - your breathing speeds up to deliver more oxygen to the blood.

  • Hands and Feet - as the blood flow increases to your major organs your hands and feet might feel cold

  • Stomach - reduces output of digestive enzymes, producing nausea

  • Bowl - movement of food slows down

  • Bladder - sphincter muscle constricts

  • Pain Perception - fight or flight might temporarily reduce your perception of pain


I wanted to share this information because a lot of people I support don't realise the physical effects of fear (read anxiety, stress, worry, trepidation, rejection, phobia, trauma, failure, low self esteem, lacking in self belief etc etc).


If your mind/body has learned to react to fear in an unhealthy and unhelpful way, you can unlearn this and/or replace it with a more healthy and helpful response. Give yourself this choice.


If you want to know more drop me a line and I'll share whatever information I have that might help. This is something you might be able to do for yourself xxxx

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