Fight or Flight Response – Related to Mental Disorders

This is why many with mental disorders "hide out" which is instinctual when in "fight or flight response".

The lack of flow in a person’s life with a mental disorder robs them of peace and well-being.  When mental, emotional, or spiritual dams develop, an inborn instinctual survival mechanism called “fight or flight response” turns on with the assignment to protect a person from more damage.  I would like to explain how this response affects those with mental disorders.

Fight or flight response and mental disorders

The “fight or flight response” stays on continually in the majority of those with a mental disorder so the new main focus of life becomes a strategy to survive by doing what feels safe with the hope of finding a path to regain mental, emotional and spiritual stability.

This is why many with mental disorders “hide out” which is instinctual when in “fight or flight response”.  Obviously, this is not healthy to live in continual fear which is why those with long-term mental disorders generally have shortened life-spans.

A function of the brain

It is no surprise the “fight or flight response” is a function of the brain so when it is not working properly, it is apparent there is a problem in the brain.  Since the brain is the most complex organ in the universe, for the most part, it is guesswork trying to figure out what is causing a brain malfunction.  Thus, we do the best we can with the small amount of information scientists and medical researchers have discovered about the brain and depend on God’s guidance to help with the “unknowns” about the brain.

NAMI list of Coping Strategies

Those with a mental disorder often feel left behind trying to climb out of a hole they are stuck in which is scary because many are no longer self-reliant enough to climb out of the hole by themselves so they do their best to survive by using coping strategies.

When I attended my mental health class, I noticed it didn’t matter if a loved one had schizophrenia, bipolar or bipolar II disorder, or depression, all loved ones pretty well employed the full list of coping strategies attempting to find safety and to recover their self-worth and self-respect.

NAMI List of Defensive Coping Strategies
Self-absorption Irritability Haughtiness
Controlling/Manipulation Anger and attack Rejection of friends and family
Blaming others Defensiveness Drug and alcohol abuse
Doing nothing Resistance to change Refusing services
Denial Apathy Bargaining
Withdrawal Suspicion Dependency
Envy Running away Refusing medication
Quitting a job Relapse Abusive criticism of others
Sleeping “I don’t want to talk about it”

Come back later

I have learned when Darrell is using the above coping strategies, it is best to stop trying to communicate with him.  I wait and watch for a more favorable time to talk to him especially if I am working with him to problem-solve something.

Fight or Flight response and mental disorders - I wait and watch for a more favorable time to talk to him especially if I am working with him to problem-solve something.
Photo by Andrew Seaman

Conclusion – Godlike traits 

Living with someone with a mental disorder who uses defensive coping strategies is a difficult challenge, but it is a trial that develops Godlike traits of patience, perseverance, long-suffering, empathy, compassion, and love.  For this I am grateful.

Top Featured Photo by Vincent van Zalinge

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