The Fight, Flight, or Freeze Response (FFFR) is a biological concept derived from how we respond to threats. In mental health, this response takes the form of activating our brain’s amygdala which sends out hormones. There is a lot of science behind this which is beyond the scope of this article. A trained counsellor can provide more information.

The brain is a wonderful organ and likes to protect us. This is where the FFF Response comes in. The hormones trigger a response, depending on our characteristics, childhood, and resilience, we fight (this can be verbal or physical), we flee (leave the situation), or we freeze (shut down, verbally, physically, and/or emotionally). This response is automatic. Think about a time when a car was coming towards you, or you were walking and were surprised by a dog growling. What was your reaction?

The FFFR helps keep us safe from actual threats. It can also be overstimulated by stressors, such as abuse, toxic work or home environments, or traumatic events. Often, you will react in the same way you did when young – this becomes your FFF instinctive reaction. For example, if you fled when your parents yelled, you may tend to flee from arguments (avoid having them). This means that those discussions are never had and things get under the rug. Freezing when called on in a classroom or put on the spot leads to freezing as an adult which can lead to social anxiety, reduce success at work, and more. Fighting tends to be more obvious in both childhood and adulthood. When danger is sensed, the reaction is to fight or attack. This can cause reduced ability to have discussions in a solution-finding manner, anger issues, poor relationships, bullying, and more.

The good news is that your FFF response can be modified, regardless of your age! Counselling can help you reframe your FFF response and come to a place where all three responses are used appropriately depending on the situation. Counselling also aids in reducing the overstimulation of the FFF response and teaching your brain to perceive real versus imagined threats. Working with a counsellor to know your FFF response and learn how to control it is one step towards healing your mind and body.

If you are looking for more information and/or help, please do not hesitate to call 905-799-2228 or sign up on the form; a service coordinator will reach you shortly.