Fight or Flight? Or Fighting Flight? Or Flighty…Okay, Now I Am Confused

Fight or flight. We all know it. The basic animal instinct of assessing a threat, then deciding to fight or run. Easy enough, but not always easy for me when my mental illness muddies the water.

Some theories I’ve read suggest mental health issues stem, in part, from a fight or flight function that has gone awry. For example, if you get a bill you don’t know how to pay, that isn’t actually life or death, but the stresses of our society might nevertheless cause that to trigger the fight or flight response. The problem is that the fight or flight response is supposed to be short term, and some think modern stressors are keeping it triggered, which is causing the imbalances in the brain that lead to mental health issues.

While this is just a theory, no one knows for sure, it makes sense to me. I’ll be encountered with something that stresses me, maybe a social situation, maybe a crowded train, and it creates conflict. My anxiety triggers my flight response, but my need to go to work forces me to ignore the stress of the crowded train, to fight through it, especially since I logically know my desire to flee isn’t from an actual threat. And then suddenly I’m fighting flightily, doing what I need to before getting the hell out of there, while wanting all along to get out of there, and all the while my brain is a conflicting, confusing mess of signals that stresses me and frustrates me as my anxiety tells me one thing and my logic tells me another.


If this sounds exhausting, I promise you it is.

What I’ve learned over the years of dealing with these issues is that the flight response is important to listen to. Because clearing my mind, fighting my mental illness is that much harder when I’m actively stressed. Removing myself from the situation, finding my calm, allows me to reset. And then I’ll live to flightily fight another day. Or something like that.


P.S. My spellcheck doesn’t recognize “flightily” as a word. Clearly whoever programs these things never had mental health issues.


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