The "Flight or Fight" response

I have a question.

I’ve been a bit curious on how this reaction works. Like I hear women who have been raped being able to throw off an attacker that is two times their weight. I just kind of find it amazing if things like that is true.

I do know that this is something primitive; yet any books on this process alone I can’t find at all! I was wondering if someone could offer their expertise on exactly what this does? Specifically, does anyone know how much an increase that the response gives? For example, can someone pick up something that is five times their weight or somehow run or react faster?

What triggers it? Rage? Anger? Emotions? Is this the same response that people can kill others for and be exonerated by the law?

In fact, ANY information would be helpful :slight_smile: Including personal experiences.

Thanks! :slight_smile:


The actual agent that is directly resposible for the “fight of flight” response to threatening situations is adrenaline. When faced with a stressful/dangerous/life-threatening situation, an innate mechanism in the human brain will release massive amounts of adrenaline. This causes muscles to tighten, as well as increased heart rate, and respiration. The direct upshot of all this is that almost immediately following the release of adrenaline, the human body is primed to either physically engage the perceived threat, or run away, depending on the circumstance.

As for the legal ramifications, it would seem to me that since the fight or flight response is motivated by what one perceives as a threat to continued well being (I.E. a mugger wielding a knife or blunt object), any charges could be countered with by arguing use of force for self defense.

My friend and I went out to the movies one night, I can’t remember what the movie was except that it was a comedy.

We were walking home and came to the point where we would go off in different directions to go home. On this evening I did not go home but ran ahead of my friend and waited in some bushes that were along his route. When he came by my hiding place I jumped out from behind him yelling like a homicidal maniac.

I swear my friend leaped five feet in the air before bolting down the street. On a normal day my friend could never outrun me but on this evening he left me in the dust as I chased him. He was so panicked he did not even realize it was me until he had covered a city block. Had he decided to use his leftover adrenaline to beat me to a pulp I would have been defenceless as I was doubled over laughing.

When I jumped out at my friend he experienced a massive rush of adrenaline and in a split second he was gone. His ability to jump was heightened by adrenalin. The adrenaline and the endorphins released heightened his reflexes and gave him the ability to run at normally impossible speeds. He was able to focus on one thing, escape. Because of the chemicals in his bloodstream his pain threshold was also lowered so that he did not experience the discomfort one would feel after making an olympic sprint over a city block.

I played a similar trick on another friend after we went and saw Friday the thirteenth. We were already pretty freaked out by the movie and as we were walking by a school fence I reached out and grabbed one of the guys by the back of the neck. He cleared a five foot fence without even touching it and ran a hundred yards before his brain informed him that it was one of us just messing with him.

One personal experience I have is from my practice of karate over the last twenty years. I have learned that one can learn to trigger the release of these chemicals so that one can be well prepared for a physical encounter. The physical reaction I experience is one of heightened awareness, increased strength and speed, and a higher pain threshold. My skin actually gets cold as blood is directed to the internal organs, specifically the heart and lungs. Visualizing the confrontation to come is usually enough to get the adrenaline and endorphins pumping and my feet and hands sometimes get so cold they hurt due to the lack of circulation.

I used to work as a bouncer, when I approached unruly patrons I would look at their complexion and offer to shake their hand in a pretense of being on their side, this ruse usually worked. If the patron I was dealing with had a pale complexion and cold hands I knew that they were prepared for a fight and might be fairly difficult to deal with. Calming them down was priority one. Flush faced drunks were always easier to deal with in many ways.

Here is a good website that simplifies the flight or fight response of the sympathetic nervous system…its not all inclusive, but its a good basic understanding