The Body's Reaction to Fear
When faced with danger or fear, humans usually react in the following sequence:
- We stop what we are doing.
- We turn toward the source of the threat.
- We freeze while we assess the peril.
- If we see danger, we hide if we can.
- If we cannot hide, we flee.
- If we cannot flee, then we will fight for our lives.
The body's fear response has evolved over millions of years as a way to protect the body from harm. The newest part of the brain recognizes and identifies a threat and mobilizes the oldest part of the brain (to respond to the threat. The body's central alarm system is the amygdala, which is located in the temporal lobe deep within the brain behind the ears. It constantly assesses the environment for any threat and takes action if a threat is perceived. When it perceives a threat, it takes control of the body and initiates several actions on of which is to alert the hypothalamus, a small, walnut-sized gland near the base of the brain, which sends a signal down the spinal cord to the adrenal glands.