Fight or Flight Response

Fight or flight response which also known as acute stress response or hyperarousal, is a physiological reaction to an anticipated attack, a harmful situation or an imminent threat to life.

An American physiologist named Walter Bradford Cannon was the first one to provide information on fight or flight response. His theory says that animals usually react to threats upon a discharge of the sympathetic nervous system, either making the animal fight for survival or just flee.
Fight or Flight Response


What is fight or flight response?

The fight or flight response also results in the production of a hormonal cascade by the adrenal medulla and the release of catecholamines. This response is also the first step in general adaptation syndrome which controls stress responses of organisms such as vertebrates. General adaptation syndrome is a response of organisms to stress and is identified in three phases such as the nonspecific mobilization phase, the resistance phase and the exhaustion phase.

Kinds of responses

The different responses identified with fight or flight response are self-protection, fleeing and fighting.

  • Self-protection in animals can either be the rapid change of color as a camouflaging reaction triggered by the sympathetic nervous system.
  • Flight or fleeing can be an escape from an incoming tidal wave or an action done by an individual to get away from a hungry lion.
  • A fight takes place when subject is cornered and is only the most appropriate action in this situation.

How men and women react to stress

A fight or flight response may vary according to gender.

Men and women usually deal with stressful circumstances in different ways. Males are more likely to challenge another person for a fight while females are more likely to flee or avoid a confrontation.

Females are also most likely to help than worsen a confrontation. They try to reduce tension in a confrontation. However, a mother tends to generate protective response during stressful moments to prevent her offspring from harm and prefers to be with other people as a social response to a threat.

A flight response in either men or women may also be manifested through abuse of a substance, socializing as a form of withdrawal or just by watching television.

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