Striking out at a person when we believe we’re in danger of some kind, whether that’s physical, emotional or reputationally, is a natural inbuilt survival mechanism that we have in the oldest part of our brain.
This is the survival-driven part of our brain that our newer, rational cortex grew on top of. Its primary concern is keeping us alive, so when our brain perceives a threat, it releases these stress chemicals and activates a response called the fight, flight or freeze response. The stress hormone cortisol or the chemical adrenaline are released and this puts our body on high alert, and as a result, our body prepares to either fight, flight or freeze.
These historically are our three ways of dealing with life threatening issues, we can either run away, fight the perceived threat, or stay perfectly still and quiet until the threat passes. So, if you have the sudden urge to fight someone, to hit out physically or verbally, this is probably your primordial caveman brain kicking in, trying to keep you alive.
However, it’s not that often that we’re in life-threatening situations anymore – after all as a species we’ve come a long way since sabre tooth tigers roamed the Earth. What happens when we suffer from anxiety is that we worry and stress about little things and hypotheticals, so much so that we convince our brain that something horrific might just actually happen. This then alerts the caveman brain, activates the fight, flight or freeze response and all the rational parts of our brain are temporarily out of action until the threat passes.
This is obviously not ideal, especially if we’re wanting to punch people all the time, or verbally lash out when we’re scared.
How Can I Stop This Symptom?
As this symptom stems from our fight, flight or freeze response, the main thing that we can do to combat it is to focus on our breathing. This should calm our central nervous system, distract our mind from the perceived threat, and deactivate our fight, flight or freeze response allowing our rational mind to come back into play and evaluate whether fighting your way out is really the right call.
Of course, in order to prevent the symptoms of anxiety occurring in the first place, you need to manage or build strategies to tackle your anxiety. There are several options available including CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), mindfulness, medication and group therapy. If you’re unsure, please contact your GP for more information.