After a car accident, everyone involved experiences a whirlwind of emotions, many of which are the human body’s response to stress. Our bodies respond to stress in different ways, and a car accident is a prime example of acute stress, an extremely stressful or distressing event that happens suddenly. One of the reflexes built into the human body is the “fight or flight” response, a self-defense mechanism triggered by a flood of adrenaline. While this reflex can be an invaluable survival tool in some situations, it can cause serious problems in others.
How Does the “Fight or Flight” Response Work?
Whenever humans or most animals experience stress or encounter a dangerous situation, the body responds to the threat with the fight or flight reflex. This biochemical reaction causes adrenaline to release into the system along with a flood of endorphins. This happens to curb the debilitating effects that fear and danger can have on the body and primes the individual to fight or flee.
The hormones that enter the bloodstream when this reflex triggers have several effects. Digestion slows so the body can allocate that energy to the task at hand. Blood flow to major muscle groups increases, the heart rate climbs, and various automatic nervous functions change to provide the body with a sudden and intense burst of strength and energy. This happens so the individual can get to safety or fight off an aggressor by putting the body into a prime state for handling either option.
Complications From Fight or Flight Reflexes
The fight or flight reflex can sometimes mean the difference between life and death in some situations, and it’s an invaluable natural reflex. However, the fight or flight reflex can actually be a liability in some cases because the hormone release dulls pain sensations so an injured person may not realize he or she is injured until the adrenaline rush fades and the body’s hormone levels rebalance.
It’s important to remember that if you do not appear to have suffered injuries at first, this does not mean you made it out unscathed. It can take time for some injuries, especially internal ones, to visibly manifest. Additionally, the adrenaline surge from the incident takes time to fade, so the hormones flooding your bloodstream will dull any pain sensations you experience immediately after an accident.
Combat veterans typically experience the fight or flight reflex more frequently and with greater intensity than average people who experience car accidents. During combat, a soldier is likely to experience the fight or flight response to danger many times, and this repeat exposure can lead to several long-term conditions. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is common among combat veterans, and one of the most significant symptoms of PTSD is having flashbacks of a traumatic event. During such flashbacks, it’s not uncommon for those reliving traumatic memories of the battlefield to enter the fight or flight state as a response to acute stress or a threat.
Know Your Options
There are many resources available to those struggling with PTSD and other mental health conditions that can sometimes cause the fight or flight reflex, such as intense anxiety. After a car accident or similar ordeal, it’s imperative to seek medical care as soon as possible. Not only does this confirm the extent of your injuries and provide you with a report you can then use for a lawsuit, it also uncovers injuries that may have gone unnoticed for too long due to your dulled pain sensations. If there is ever any doubt, seek treatment from a doctor immediately.