When we’re confronted with a threat, whether real or perceived, our fight-flight-freeze response is triggered. The amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for emotional responses, reacts by sounding the alarm and sending super-charged neurochemicals (adrenaline and cortisol) through the body to provide it with the resources it needs to fight, run away, or be still and hide.

When this happens, we can experience a cascade of physical sensations, including:

This automatic response to danger has been perfected over thousands of years, starting from the time when we needed to react quickly to avoid becoming another creature’s dinner. Today, we need this alarm system much less often, but it’s still there and as on-guard as ever. Its single purpose is survival, so it’s often blind to the specifics of the threat, acting first and asking questions later (if at all).

If this process is started, but there isn’t any reason to fight, run away or hide, we’re left with all those neurochemicals coursing through our bodies with nowhere to go. This can make us feel restless, tense and nauseated, like something bad is going to happen. Feeling like something bad is going to happen can lead to thinking that something bad is going to happen, which can in turn lead to behaving like something bad is going to happen by avoiding, shutting down or becoming aggressive to protect ourselves.

Watch this short video, produced by Anxiety Canada, which explains how anxiety is a normal biological response that can be triggered inappropriately in our modern world.

Fight Flight Freeze: Anxiety Explained for Teens is a video developed by Anxiety Canada about how anxiety keeps you alive, and how worries in your head affect what you feel in your body. For more, check out www.anxietycanada.com

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