- Fight-or-flight response
The fight-or-flight response, also called the "fright", fight or flight response, hyperarousal or the acute stress response, was first described by
Walter Cannonin 1915. [ [http://www.harvardsquarelibrary.org/unitarians/cannon_walter.html harvardsquarelibrary: W. B. Cannon "Bodily Changes in Pain, Hunger, Fear and Rage: An Account of Recent Researches into the Function of Emotional Excitement", Appleton, New York, 1915] ] [cite book | last = Cannon | first = Walter | authorlink = Walter Cannon | coauthors = | title = Bodily changes in pain, hunger, fear, and rage | publisher = Appleton | date = 1929 | location = New York | pages = | url = | doi = | id = | isbn = ] His theory states that animals react to threats with a general discharge of the sympathetic nervous system, priming the animal for fightingor fleeing. This response was later recognized as the first stage of a general adaptation syndromethat regulates stress responses among vertebrates and other organisms.
Biology of the stress response
Normally, when a person is in a serene, unstimulated state, the "firing" of
neurons in the locus ceruleusis minimal. A novel stimulus (which could include a perception of danger or an environmental stressorsuch as elevated sound levels or over-illumination), once perceived, is relayed from the sensory cortex of the brain through the hypothalamusto the brain stem. That route of signaling increases the rate of noradrenergic activity in the locus ceruleus, and the person becomes alert and attentive to the environment. Similarly, an abundance of catecholaminesat neuroreceptor sites facilitates reliance on spontaneous or intuitive behaviors often related to combat or escapeFact|date=February 2007.
If a stimulus is perceived as a threat, a more intense and prolonged discharge of the locus ceruleus activates the sympathetic division of the
autonomic nervous system(Thase & Howland, 1995). This activation is associated with specific physiological actions in the system, both directly and indirectly through the release of epinephrine(adrenaline) and to a lesser extent norepinephrinefrom the medulla of the adrenal glands. The release is triggered by acetylcholinereleased from preganglionic sympathetic nerves. The other major factor in the acute stress response is the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis(Sternberg 2001).
Physiology of the stress response
These catecholamine hormones facilitate immediate physical reactions associated with a preparation for violent muscular action. (Gleitman, et al, 2004) These include the following:
* Acceleration of heart and lung action
Inhibitionof stomach and intestinal action
* General effect on the
sphinctersof the body
* Constriction of blood vessels in many parts of the body
* Liberation of nutrients for muscular action
* Dilation of blood vessels for muscles
* Inhibition of
Lacrimal gland(responsible for tear production) and salivation
* Dilation of pupil
* Relaxation of bladder
* Inhibition of erection
* Auditory Exclusion (loss of hearing)
* Tunnel Vision (loss of peripheral vision)
Psychology of the stress response
A typical example of the stress response is a grazing zebra, calmly maintaining
homeostasis. If the zebra sees a lion closing in for the kill, the stress response is activated. The escape requires intense muscular effort, supported by all of the body’s systems. The sympathetic nervous system’s activation provides for these needs. A similar example involving fight is of a cat about to be attacked by a dog. The cat shows accelerated heartbeat, piloerection(hair standing on end, normally for conservation of heat), and pupil dilation, all signs of sympathetic arousal (Gleitman et al, 2004).
Though Cannon, who first proposed the idea of fight-or-flight, provided considerable evidence of these responses in various animals, it subsequently became apparent that his theory of response was too simplistic. Animals respond to threats in many complex ways. Rats, for instance, try to escape when threatened, but will fight when cornered. Some animals stand perfectly still so that predators will not see them. Others have more exotic self-protection methods. Some species of fish change color swiftly, to camouflage themselves. These responses are triggered by the sympathetic nervous system, but in order to fit the model of fight or flight, the idea of flight must be broadened to include escaping capture in either a physical way or in a sensory way. Thus, flight can be disappearing to another location or just disappearing in place. And often both fight and flight are combined in a given situation.
The fight or flight actions also have polarity - the individual can fight or fly against or away from something that is threatening, such as a hungry lion, or fight or fly for or towards something that is needed, such as the safety of the shore of a raging river.
A threat from another animal does not always result in immediate fight or flight. There may be a period of heightened awareness, during which each animal interprets behavioral signals from the other. Signs such as paling, piloerection, immobility, sounds, and body language communicate the status and intentions of each animal. There may be a sort of negotiation, after which fight or flight may ensue, but which might also result in playing, mating, or nothing at all. An example of this is kittens playing: each kitten shows the signs of sympathetic arousal, but they never inflict real damage.
Behavioral manifestations of fight-or-flight
In prehistoric times when the fight or flight response evolved, fight was manifested in aggressive, combative behavior and flight was manifested by fleeing potentially threatening situations, such as being confronted by a predator. In current times, these responses persist, but fight and flight responses have assumed a wider range of behaviors. For example, the fight response may be manifested in angry, argumentative behavior, and the flight response may be manifested through social withdrawal, substance abuse, and even television viewing (Friedman & Silver 2007).
Males and females tend to deal with stressful situations differently. Males are more likely to respond to an emergency situation with aggression, (Fight) while females are more likely to flee (flight) and turn to others for help. During stressful times, a mother is especially likely to show protective responses toward her offspring and affiliate with others for shared social responses to threat (Taylor et al, 2000).
Negative effects of the stress response in humans
Although the emergency measure of the stress response is undoubtedly both vital and valuable, it can also be disruptive and damaging. In most modern situations, humans rarely encounter emergencies that require physical effort, yet our biology still provides for them. Thus we may find our stress response activated in situations where physical action is inappropriate. This activation takes a toll on both our bodies and our minds. Also, simple stresses that can be acted upon quickly are more easily overcome allowing the body to return to homeostasis, but with the more complex stresses of modern societies, with many factors and individuals involved, the danger may seem unavoidable and stress may continue indefinitely, which ends up compromising the system rather than helping the system.
Disruption of the sexual response and the digestive system are common negative results. Diarrhea, constipation, and difficulty maintaining sexual arousal are typical examples. These are functions which are controlled by the
parasympathetic nervous systemand therefore suppressed by sympathetic arousal. Prolonged stress responses may result in chronic suppression of the immune system, leaving the sufferer vulnerable to infection by bacteria and viruses. Repeated stress responses can be caused not only by real threats, but also by mental disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder, in which the individual shows a stress response when remembering a past trauma, and panic disorder, in which the stress response is activated apparently by nothing."'
Acute stress reaction
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Rest and digest
Tend and befriend
* [http://www.octc.kctcs.edu/gcaplan/anat/Notes/API%20Notes%20M%20Autonomic%20Nervous%20System.htm Anatomy and Physiology I notes] from [http://www.octc.kctcs.edu/ Owensboro community college] .
*Friedman, H. S., & Silver, R. C. (Eds.) (2007). Foundations of Health Psychology. New York: Oxford University Press.
*Taylor, S.E., Klein, L.C., Lewis, B.P., Gruenewald, T.L., Gurung, R.A.R., & Updegraff, J.A. (2000). Biobehavioral responses to stress in females: Tend-and-befriend, not fight-or-flight. Psychological Review, 107, 411-429.
*Sapolsky, Robert M., 1994. Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers. W.H. Freeman and Company.
*Sternberg, Esther, 2001. "The Balance Within: The Science Connecting Health and Emotions". W.H. Freeman and Company, 76,77,96-98.
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Look at other dictionaries:
fight-or-flight response — /faɪt ɔ ˈflaɪt rəspɒns/ (say fuyt aw fluyt ruhspons) noun the reaction to danger that animals experience when they are presented with two options, that of standing their ground or of running away, both of which trigger specific physiological… … Australian English dictionary
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Fight or Flight — may refer to:* Fight or flight response, the biological response of animals to acute stress * Fight or Flight , an album by the British rock band Turin Brakes * Fight or Flight , a first season episode of * Fight or Flight , an episode of the… … Wikipedia
fight-or-flight reaction — /fuyt awr fluyt /, Physiol., Psychol. the response of the sympathetic nervous system to a stressful event, preparing the body to fight or flee, associated with the adrenal secretion of epinephrine and characterized by increased heart rate,… … Universalium
fight-or-flight reaction — /fuyt awr fluyt /, Physiol., Psychol. the response of the sympathetic nervous system to a stressful event, preparing the body to fight or flee, associated with the adrenal secretion of epinephrine and characterized by increased heart rate,… … Useful english dictionary
fight or flight — ► fight or flight the instinctive physiological response to a threatening situation, which readies one either to resist forcibly or to run away. Main Entry: ↑fight … English terms dictionary
fight-or-flight — adjective Date: 1973 relating to, being, or causing physiological changes in the body (as an increase in heart rate or dilation of bronchi) in response to stress < epinephrine is a fight or flight hormone > < a fight or flight reaction > … New Collegiate Dictionary
Fight or Flight (Enterprise) — ST episode name =Fight or Flight series =Enterprise ep num =2 prod num =103 date =October 3, 2001 year = May 6, 2151 writer =Rick Berman Brannon Braga director =Allan Kroeker guest =Jeff Rickets Efrain Figueroa prev =Broken Bow next =Strange New… … Wikipedia
fight-or-flight — adj. Fight or flight is used with these nouns: ↑response … Collocations dictionary
fight or flight — the instinctive physiological response to a threatening situation, which readies one either to resist forcibly or to run away. → fight … English new terms dictionary