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Understanding Anxiety: The Fight, Flight or Freeze Response

Updated: Apr 8

How did the Fight-or-Flight evolved in our modern society


The fight-or-flight response, coupled with its counterpart, the freeze response, stands as essential elements of our body's stress management system, deeply ingrained in our evolutionary history. These mechanisms evolved to help our ancestors in navigating the constant dangers present in their environment. However, in our contemporary society, marked by persistent stressors, these responses often evolve into anxiety, contributing to a plethora of physical and psychological symptoms.


Lion Attack, creating Fight or Flight response

While the fight-or-flight response primes us for action in the face of perceived threats, the freeze response induces a temporary state of immobilization or psychological withdrawal. In today's society, where stressors abound, chronic exposure to such stimuli can amplify these responses, culminating in heightened levels of anxiety. This evolution underscores the delicate balance between instinctual survival mechanisms and cognitive processes, which can become disrupted in the face of chronic stress and societal pressures.


Stages of the Fight-or-Flight and Freeze Response


1. Alarm Stage: The initial perception of danger triggers the release of stress hormones, activating the fight-or-flight response. Simultaneously, the freeze response may be initiated, leading to a temporary paralysis or a feeling of being "stuck." In our modern society, characterized by constant stimuli and societal pressures, these responses can contribute to the development of anxiety disorders.


2. Resistance Stage: As the body prepares for action, it assesses the situation to determine the most appropriate response—whether to confront, flee, or remain motionless. However, in individuals susceptible to anxiety, this assessment process can be distorted, leading to heightened sensitivity to perceived threats and exaggerated stress responses. Chronic activation of the fight-or-flight and freeze responses can contribute to the maintenance of anxiety symptoms, exacerbating the overall stress burden.


3. Exhaustion Stage: Prolonged exposure to stress can perpetuate the freeze response, fostering feelings of helplessness and disconnection. This chronic activation of stress responses can lead to persistent anxiety symptoms, including heightened arousal, restlessness, and difficulty concentrating. Moreover, hormonal dysregulation associated with chronic stress can exacerbate these symptoms, contributing to long-term health consequences.


Integration with Anxiety Disorders


The freeze response significantly intersects with anxiety disorders, wherein individuals may experience a combination of fight-or-flight and freeze responses. This amalgamation can manifest as panic attacks, social withdrawal, or emotional shutdown in response to perceived threats. Hormonal imbalances, such as elevated cortisol levels, play a significant role in the development and perpetuation of anxiety-related symptoms, further highlighting the intricate interplay between physiological and psychological factors in our society.


Examples and Coping Strategies


Awareness of the fight-or-flight and freeze responses aids individuals in recognizing moments of overwhelm or detachment, enabling the implementation of strategies to regulate their stress response. Coping techniques such as mindfulness practices, relaxation exercises, and therapy can be effective in managing both acute stressors and chronic anxiety. By addressing the underlying mechanisms of stress and anxiety, individuals can develop resilience and navigate the challenges of modern society more effectively.


RTT's Role in Understanding and Coping


Rapid Transformational Therapy (RTT) offers a comprehensive approach to understanding and addressing the fight-or-flight and freeze responses, as well as their evolution into anxiety. By uncovering the root causes of these responses through regression therapy and cognitive restructuring, RTT enables individuals to reframe their perceptions of stressors and develop healthier coping mechanisms. Through guided hypnotherapy sessions and targeted interventions, RTT empowers individuals to break free from the cycle of chronic stress and anxiety, fostering resilience and promoting overall well-being.


For a FREE initial consultation, visit Cathy Jenkins RTT at cathy-jenkins.com.

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