Describe the 'Fight or Flight' System and How That Relates to Anxiety Disorder

Topics: Anxiety, Hypothalamus, Fight-or-flight response Pages: 5 (1745 words) Published: May 22, 2013
Coursework title: Describe the ‘Fight or Flight’ system and how that relates to Anxiety disorders.

Psychologist Walter Cannon, (1963) was the founder of the fight or flight response, characterising it as the stress response for human beings and also a representation in the vital mechanism of our survival process. (Cacioppo, Bernston, Adolphs, Carter, McClintock, McEwen…et al. 2002.) The fight or flight response is the body primitive and automatic response which prepares human beings to either ‘fight’ or ‘flee’ from a perceived threat, you could also say it is the biological response to acute stress (Bernstein, and Nash, 2008.). This is a pattern of physical reactions generated by the sympathetic nervous system (Bernstein et al. 2008) prompting the body’s fight or flight response when faced by a threatening encounter one might have. According to Gellhorn and Loofburrow, (1963) as cited in Bernstein and Nash (2008) parts of the sympathetic nervous system are triggered in sympathy when other parts are stimulated creating the fight or flight response Figure three. This corresponds to the hypothalamus located in the brain when stimulated it moderates a succession of nerve cells emission and chemical release prompting our bodies to either fight or run away at the face of harm (Nolen – Hoeksema, Fredrickson, Loftus, Wagenaar, 2009.) Several types of neurotransmitters are involved in the system, collectively known as the hypothalamus pituitary – adrenocortical (HPA) axis, has a vital contribution to our moods, such as anxiety, panic disorder and many physical disorders (Nolen – Hoeksema et al. 2009.). Anxiety is the most frequent stressor response in humans; these are the normal reactions to stress (Smith, Nolen – Hoeksma, Fredrickson and Loftus, 2003) daily encounter. Studies have indicated a connection between the HPA axis and psychiatric problems such as anxiety (Kallen, Tulen, Utens, Treffers, De Jong and Ferdiand, 2008) panic disorder (Aberlson, Khan, Liberzon and Young, 2007) and also some HPA dysregulation in PSTD (Van Der Klok, 2001). There is an increased in the cortisol secretion when in stressful circumstances in adults with anxiety disorder (Kallen et al. 2008) HPA axis fluctuates in patients with panic disorder (Aberlson et al. 2007). Further insight as to how the fight or flight system relates to anxiety is discuss in more details.

Fight or flight response mechanism is hard-weird into the brain and is activated by a genetic wisdom contrived to protect the body from potential danger (Cacioppo et al. 2002.) When the brain detects danger the pituitary gland is activated releasing ACTH which then stimulates the adrenal gland producing cortisol hormone into the bloodstream (Bernstein et al. 2008) the body metabolism increases as it prepares for using energy, i.e. heart rate, blood pressure, breathing rate increases, muscles tense, shakiness etc. (Nolen – Hoeksema et al. 2009) are all factors of the fight or flight in motion. HPA is convoluted set of explicit authority and feedback communications among the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland and the adrenal gland (Cacioppo et al. 2002) this occurs in the first stage (Alarm) of a prolonged sequence of reactions known as GAS (general adaptation syndrome) according to Selye (1956) as cited in Barker, (2002) the hypothalamus stimulates the pituitary gland secreting adrenocorticotropic hormone which then activates the cortex of the adrenal gland to produce corticosteroids releasing supplies of energy and fight inflammation; the pituitary glands initiates the emission of endorphins, a natural painkiller in the body figure two (Barker, 2002) Cells in the hypothalamus produce corticotrophin releasing factor (CRF) in response any given stress (Cacioppo et al. 2002) The CRF in turn adheres to specific receptors on the pituitary gland which is then used to secrete ACTH transporting to the adrenal gland, this is then stimulated to release adrenal hormones preparing the...
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