Fight or flight response ( English fight-or-flight response , cf. fight or flight "fight or flight") is a term coined by the American physiologist Walter Cannon (1915). The fight-or-flight reaction describes the rapid physical and mental adaptation of living beings in dangerous situations as a stress reaction .
Cannon researched the associated neurobiological processes using the reaction of animals to threats. The starting point of his scientific work was his interest in the background of the frequently occurring post- traumatic stress disorder in soldiers during and after the First World War .
During the fight-or-flight reaction, the brain causes impulses to be sent through nerve tracts of the autonomic nervous system to the adrenal medulla , which cause a sudden release of adrenaline , which, among other things, causes the adrenal medulla . a. the cardiac output , the physical strength (muscle tone) and the breathing rate increased. With constant stress, metabolism-stimulating hormones such as cortisol are also released from the adrenal cortex into the blood, as the adrenaline is effective immediately, but only for a short time. These reactions provide the energy for survival-ensuring behavior that is appropriate to a stressful situation in animals under species-appropriate conditions: fight or flight.
In humans, an "adrenaline rush" can be very helpful in dangerous situations with physical demands, but in connection with the fight-or-flight syndrome there are also often affective acts .
The fight-or-flight response is based on positive feedback between the adrenal medulla and the sympathetic nervous system . Stimuli from the sympathetic nervous system cause adrenaline and noradrenaline to be released . Norepinephrine is the neurotransmitter of the sympathetic, which is why it can give even more impulses, so that even more neurotransmitters are released.
Excessive stress can lead to damage or breakdown of the organism ( see also general adaptation syndrome ).
Freeze, flight, fight, or fright
Jeffrey Alan Gray expanded the sequence in 1988. The freeze phase is characterized by increased alertness ( hypervigilance ) and immobility. The reason for freezing is the hope of being overlooked by the predator, as the eyes are most likely to respond to movement. Gray reversed the sequence flight-or-fight for Cannon, as this corresponds more to the behavior pattern. If neither escape nor fight are a realistic option, the phase can fright , that fear arrive. This goes hand in hand with a tonic immobility ( muscle paralysis ) with the intention of playing dead .
Recent research shows a difference in stress response in men and women. The fight-or-flight reaction applies to both, but is less pronounced in women; in dangerous situations, for example, it joins more protective groups (Cohen & Wills 1985). In this context, Shelley Taylor (psychology professor, University of California, Los Angeles) coined the term “tend-and-befriend” in the late 1990s as a possible response for women to stress: protecting the offspring (tend) and offering friendship (befriend ).
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- Walter Cannon harvardsquarelibrary
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- Tend-and-befriend . ( Memento of June 7, 2009 in the Internet Archive ) In: Psychology Today
- SE Taylor, LC Klein, BP Lewis, TL Gruenewald, RAR Gurung, JA Updegraff: Biobehavioral responses to stress in females: Tend-and-befriend, not fight-or-flight . In: Psychological Review , 107, 2000, pp. 411-429.