About Anxiety
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How the Fight or Flight Response Causes Flushing

Micah Abraham, BSc
How the Fight or Flight Response Causes Flushing

The fight or flight response is a complex set of reactions that can be caused by fear and by anxiety. Flushing, or reddening of the face and/or other body parts, is one of the many side effects of these reactions. Others may misunderstand the reaction and assume it is a sign of embarrassment or anger, which can lead to failures of communication and heightened tension in the situation causing your anxiety.

Read on to learn exactly how and why the fight or flight response triggers flushing in the body, as well as what you can do to minimize this embarrassing side effect.

What Flushing Means

Fight or flight is a primal reaction that has been with us since we were coming face to face with saber-toothed tigers. Though we have fewer tigers to contend with now, our responses to fear stimuli have remained remarkably similar. 

During the fight or flight response, the body prepares itself to either escape or combat the object of our fear or anxiety even though it is often the case with anxiety that there is no physical object to combat or run away from.

Flushing is a reaction to stress that turns the face red, and sometimes also other areas of the body such as the arms and chest. It is more severe than blushing, which is subtler, limited to the face and ears, and usually only indicates embarrassment.

Read on to find out what bodily actions cause flushing, and the reasons why they happen.

How and Why Your Body Causes Flushing

Your body does everything for a reason: however, flushing is primarily caused by the fact that what the body is doing for us in fight or flight is an unnecessary response to most modern situations.

The bodily reactions associated with fight or flight that cause flushing include:

Anxiety attacks often result in the circulation of excess blood by the heart, which can easily result in flushing. However, the heart palpitations and nausea that can sometimes be associated with anxiety may also result in paleness or blanching, flushing's polar opposite.

Whether you are more prone to flushing or blanching, you probably don't want to be. The following section will examine what you can do to avoid flushing when you experience the fight or flight response.

How to Minimize Flushing

There are a number of methods that you can use to control your flushing problem, the no-longer-relevant remnant of a chain reaction that we once needed to keep from being eaten by other, bigger animals. Check out these modern solutions to an age-old problem below:

As you alter your lifestyle to reduce stress on your heart and in your mind, the embarrassment of flushing red all over for no good reason will soon be a thing of the past.

Don't forget that embarrassment over flushing can also cause flushing. So you do need to make sure that you're okay with your redness. If you are flushing and someone asks you if something is wrong, be okay with telling them that you tend to flush once in a while from anxiety. Your openness will prevent you from letting your anxiety spiral.

Still, you need to make sure that you're taking action to reduce your anxiety and start seeing real changes in your day to day life.

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