Fight or Flight is a fairly common concept when it comes to the basic understand of a stress response… but did you know there is another F?
Fight or Flight has a new name… It’s fight flight or freeze.
When we now talk about fight flight or freeze we must also include the notion of what is known as “tonic Immobility” which is a much more high speed way of saying freeze in my opinion.
In humans, tonic immobility (TI) is a temporary state of motor inhibition believed to be a response to situations involving extreme fear. Limited attention has been directed to studying TI in humans; however, the phenomenon has been well documented in the animal literature.
As it relates to an emergency or life threatening situations there have been reports of fear-induced freezing in the contexts of air, naval, and other disasters.
To understand the evolution of this new addition, let’s take a quick trip back in time to explore the science… [insert wavy lines and twilight zone music here]:
The phrase “fight or flight” was coined by Cannon (1927, 1929) in the 1920s to describe key behaviors that occur in the context of perceived threat. This term has not only been influential in later conceptual and empirical work on anxiety and its disorders, but the phrase also has become relatively well-known in popular culture. In the context of anxiety research, the alarm or fear response described by Barlow (2002)reflects an interaction between learning and innate, biological systems designed to help animals adapt to threat.
Moving forward to modern times, the more contemporary notion of a true or false alarm still contains the two primary features of Cannon’s original expression, though the ordering of effects is probably best reversed.
As opposed to fight, flight is the overwhelming action tendency subsequent to an alarm whereas relatively fewer instances of fight responses result from threat (Lang, 1994). Run Forest Run!!!
Part of Barlow’s (2002) description of an adaptive alarm model suggests that a freeze response may occur in some threatening situations. Specifically, freezing — or tonic immobility — may overwhelm other competing action tendencies. For example, when fleeing or aggressive responses are likely to be ineffective, a freeze response may take place.
Here’s a really informative and short video to provide you with some good insight into this phenomenon.
Fight Flight or Freeze ads a new dimension to the idea and importance of stress inoculation and the need to build a strong mind.
Now that you are aware of the possibility make sure you prepare yourself both mentally and physically to address an encounter or life threatening situation.