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Chapter 2. All About Stress > The Physiology of Stress: The Fight-or-Flight Res...

The Physiology of Stress: The Fight-or-Flight Response

There is more than sufficient data demonstrating that stress can lead to physical, emotional, and behavioral maladjustments. But how do changes in our lives lead to ill health? The answer lies in a physiological mechanism known as the fight-or-flight response. The fight-or-flight response is a survival mechanism present in humans and most animals that prepares us to deal with physical danger. Imagine our prehistoric ancestors, cavemen and cavewomen, exploring their terrain, perhaps even enjoying the wonders of their environment, when suddenly out of the corner of their eyes they spot a sabertoothed tiger, licking its lips in anticipation of a tasty human morsel. The fight-or-flight reaction would kick in, preparing their bodies to either fight or flee from the tiger, through a series of instantaneous physiological and psychological changes that prepare the individual to take immediate physical action in the face of danger. These changes and their resulting physical signs are outlined in Table 2.1, Table 2.2, and Figure 2.1.

Figure 2.1. Stress: The General Adaptation Syndrome



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