Fight or flight

February 6, 2021
September 7, 2022

Read a transcript of this video:

You may have heard the phrase ‘fight or flight’ before.

This is a primitive response to danger that is controlled by the amygdala – the area of the brain responsible for emotion.

When we’re triggered by potential dangers such as fire or a speeding car, our amygdala helps us ‘spring into action’.

We can respond in one of five ways.

‘Flight’ means to run from the danger.

‘Fight’ means we defend ourselves.

We may also ‘flock’ to others for safety in numbers.

or ‘flop’ and become submissive.

In some cases, we simply ‘freeze’.

Our brains have an area known as the ‘frontal lobe’ which helps us to keep a lid on our emotional responses and to behave in an appropriate manner. However, when our amygdala takes over, the frontal lobe is unable to do this and so a person may ‘flip their lid’ and be inclined to fight, flight, flop, flock or freeze. So, imagine the frontal lobe lifting and unleashing our primal reactions!

It’s important to understand that many situations can trigger the fight or flight response. Even an unpleasant memory can evoke these reactions.

If a person has a weakness in their frontal lobe, they may exhibit this response to exciting events or stimulation. They may become uncharacteristically over-familiar, loud or cheeky as they struggle to contain their emotions.

In some cases, this may lead to distress. They may act impulsively, rudely, or appear to be a little ‘over the top’.

At Dementia Carers Count, we understand how frustrating, upsetting and embarrassing these situations can be. You can find out more about how to anticipate these situations and deal with them appropriately in our Virtual Carers Centre.

Fight or flight
Our 'fight or flight' response happens more often than we might think, especially to those with dementia
Emotional wellbeing
Managing emotions