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  • Writer's pictureNatalie Hartney, LPC NCC

What is Fight or Flight?

The term "fight or flight" is often used to describe a state of being under real or perceived threat. It is what happens when we meet a bear on the path: Our brain and nervous system respond to keep our bodies safe and lives intact. It is meant to be a short term state of being, just long enough to survive the bear encounter. Our breathing is faster, but less efficient, the blood flows to where it is needed, certainly not to the areas for long term planning or communication. Our behavior is more compulsive. Our sympathetic nervous system becomes dominant until we are out of the woods. After this, the parasympathetic nervous system comes back on line, we leave this state of fight or flight, and we can process the shock of what has happened.

Also while in this parasympathetic dominant state, we make plans to keep ourselves safer in the future, replay and organize the memories of what just happened. We may also shake or pace to express the chemical changes and increased energy, or cry in relief. We heal. Acute-one time and sudden-fight or flight is a noticeable shift in our state of being. Chronic fight or flight, or put another way, chronic sympathetic dominance is less noticeable, and very damaging. More on that in a later post. 

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