Understanding The Fight Or Flight Response: The All-Important Anxiety Mechanism

One important aspect for anxiety sufferers in learning to better cope with their anxiety symptoms is becoming better educated about anxiety and its intended purpose. Learning about anxiety is often a part of therapies that can successfully treat anxiety disorders by helping patients experiencing them, to better understand the purpose for the anxiety mechanism called the “fight or flight response”. Once an anxiety sufferer can view anxiety from the proper perspective, he can better learn to work with the emotion rather than fearing and avoiding it.

Anxiety is a Performance Enhancer

One of the important purposes of anxiety is to empower people to perform important tasks better and with more energy and inspiration. If a successful salesman is called upon to meet with a group of people who are seeking to achieve successful sales, he can better relate positive points for inspiring them, with the aid of the fight or flight response.

An inspirational speaker is far more convincing when those listening to his lectures can see energy behind the points he is making in his speech. The same can be said of an athlete that competes for first place in a sports event. The fight or flight response can give him or her, the edge needed and the drive to reach deep down and find that extra energy at just the right moment to win the event. In cases like these, the person experiencing this important anxiety mechanism has learned to channel the energy it provides, toward a positive outcome.

Those who struggle with the fight or flight response because they tend to react negatively to it, may instead stutter and stammer when making a speech or freeze with fear when the moment of opportunity to win a sports event is facing them. This demonstrates the fact that the fight or flight response can have either a positive or negative effect, depending on how a person has learned to work with it and channel it toward positive results.

Anxiety Fight or Flight Hormones

The term “fight or flight” is reference to the fact that we may at times be faced with dangers or threats that will require us to respond by either fleeing or defending ourselves. This anxiety response enables us to do so, with added energy, alertness and strength, so that we can escape without injury or at least minimize injury when possible. This is accomplished by the adrenal glands that respond to danger signals from the brain and provide increased levels of adrenal hormones, the main one being “adrenaline”.

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Once the level of adrenaline rises, breathing increases, as well as blood flow to the muscles. The body will begin to sweat which according to anxiety research, may be the body’s way of creating more difficulty in being grasped and held by an intruder, due to the skin becoming slippery with moisture. All of these bodily responses are designed to protect us but danger signals may at times be sent to the adrenal glands, from the brain, when no actual danger is present, such as when viewing a movie thriller or riding a scary amusement park ride.

The Natural Response can have an Unnatural Timing

Anxiety disorder sufferers can learn to recognize the fight or flight response as a good thing designed to empower them and protect them at the appropriate times. Anxiety that becomes “disordered” means it begins to trigger at times it is not actually needed. It may then be perceived as very unpleasant because increased energy levels are becoming available when they are not needed. Not being able to channel the fight or flight symptoms in a positive direction will cause a person to perceive them as fear rather than strength or as panic feelings, rather than the ambition needed to accomplish a task at hand.

For some anxiety sufferers, there is a subtle but chronically activated fight or flight mode that remains in a triggered state or what might be referred to as “free floating anxiety”. Others have suddenly escalated fight or flight responses that are referred to as “panic attacks”. The anxiety response itself is not unnatural but the timing of it has become disordered in these cases. 10 Facts of Panic

Anxiety Therapies and Treatments

There are therapies available, including a highly successful type called “Cognitive Behavioral Therapy” that helps anxiety sufferers to perceive anxiety in the correct way and to also respond to it appropriately. It also helps them learn not to fear the anxiety fight or flight response and to develop techniques for channeling it into positive outcomes rather than negative ones.

There are also medications that can aid in anxiety coping that are available in as-needed doses or that are taken as a daily regimen. These can also be combined with other anxiety therapies to increase the benefit and in some cases may only be needed temporarily as a patient better learns to cope with anxiety symptoms.

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