Fight or Flight

Bluebird In FlightThe fight or flight response is a biochemical reaction in both humans and non-human animals that enables them to rapidly produce sufficient energy to flee or fight in a threatening situation.

Physiology of Fight or Flight

The fight or flight response is a biological reaction originally discovered by Walter Cannon. The response does not have to be taught, and so long as a person’s body is functioning relatively normally, he or she can have the fight or flight response. When presented with an immediate stressor, the body releases adrenaline, noradrenaline, and cortisol. The heart rate elevates and blood is directed away from the organs and toward the arms and legs to enable fighting or fleeing. Less energy is expended on functions such as thought and immunity because all of the body’s capabilities are mobilized to respond to stress.

Fight or Flight in Contemporary Society

The fight or flight response plays a vital role in survival. When you watch a gazelle being chased by a lion on television, you are witnessing an animal experiencing this biochemical reaction. Without the response, the gazelle would not have the energy to flee and would certainly die. Similarly, this response can protect humans from attackers, help them escape natural disasters, and ensure that the body is mobilized when other threats are present.

However, the flight or fight response can cause psychological and physiological problems in contemporary society. Modern humans are exposed to high stress levels that are often not remedied either by fighting or fleeing. The stresses of job insecurity, a bad economy, political instability, marital conflict, and numerous other issues can repeatedly activate the fight or flight response. When this response is chronically activated, people can suffer from decreased immunity and other health problems. The response can also contribute to mental health problems such as depression, chronic anxiety, and posttraumatic stress (PTSD). People experiencing PTSD, for example, are stuck in a permanent fight or flight state that can inhibit their ability to deal with normal stress and daily life. Mental health professionals frequently work to help people reprogram their reactions to stress, and in some cases psychoactive drugs can help the body to not automatically go into crisis mode when presented with a stressor.


  1. The fight or flight response. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Last Updated: 11-23-2015

  • Leave a Comment
  • Tim S

    March 4th, 2016 at 5:30 AM

    I’ve been surfing from the internet over a few hrs these days, but in no way discovered any sort of attention-grabbing blog post like yours. It is actually striking worth good enough to me. In my opinion, if all of internet marketers and bloggers designed very good written content materials you probably did, the net is going to be way more very helpful than everbefore.I may book mark this article !! Will surely read all over again !! Thanks with the worthwhile information and facts.

  • Monique

    February 8th, 2020 at 9:48 PM

    I’m glad I saw this and read it! Has some great information in it!

  • Kristina

    March 10th, 2021 at 2:08 PM

    Can you recommend a specialist for FF?

  • LaurenGT

    March 11th, 2021 at 8:39 AM

    Hi Kristina. I’m not entirely sure what you mean by “a specialist for FF.” What aspects of fight or flight are causing concern? That might help me know what you’re looking for.

    You can always reach out to our support team ( for help finding a therapist.

  • Judy 10

    October 5th, 2021 at 12:21 PM

    I find this too, I have had so many bad things happen to me & especially in the last 3 yrs thst I am in constant flight or fight mode, the only thing that has helped me is being permanently on antianxiety pills & a trailer load of others, for me councilling didn’t help whatsoever absolutely useless plus I don’t have the time or money to go around paying to get the right one, doesn’t really matter what u do as everyone is unique, if it works for u then good

  • Ric

    July 21st, 2022 at 1:09 AM

    I’m being gang stalked by the L A crips they have tryed to kill me 5 times. , Tryed today, I don’t know what I’m gonna do but I’m tired of being shot at set up to be shot I didn’t do anything to these people don’t even know them they just showed
    manim up one day and started to try to kill me crazy I’m start this in court I’ve had enough and they getting closer and closer, going to the gang task force and get this
    handle, I can’t handle no more

Leave a Comment

By commenting you acknowledge acceptance of's Terms and Conditions of Use.


* Indicates required field.

GoodTherapy uses cookies to personalize content and ads to provide better services for our users and to analyze our traffic. By continuing to use this site you consent to our cookies.