There are wide-ranging physical, psychological and behavioral symptoms of being stuck in ‘fight or flight.’
Many people clearly see that they are functioning differently after some stressful or traumatic period or event. They know their symptoms arose from their job, divorce, auto accident, troubled relationship, illness, etc.
But most of us have no idea we are functioning in ‘fight or flight,'…
…especially when there is no ‘before and after’ frame of reference. Sometimes symptoms develop so gradually that they are not always associated with the stress or trauma that might have precipitated them.
Or when stress occurs over a long enough period of time (or from an early age), frequently there is no recognition that performance has suffered.
Often there is recognition, but no accurate explanation. Usually we find other things to blame, like age or fatigue. We rationalize we’re just doing the best we can.
"When our nervous system goes into overdrive, the result is overproduction of 'warrior hormones' and underproduction of other hormones...critical to our health and happiness" (Cherewatenko and Perry, 'The Stress Cure').
Early on, symptoms can be very subtle. Many people experience varying degrees of emotional or behavioral difficulties, such as reduced focus and concentration, difficulty handling stress, feelings of frustration, anger, anxiety, depression, fear and overwhelm, just to name a few.
They may have trouble thinking clearly or have difficulty with memory or other cognitive functions. They may tend to be more reactive, overly sensitive or defensive. Performing everyday tasks like driving and reading can become less comfortable or efficient.
Often their perspective becomes narrowed, limiting their ability to see the ‘big picture’ (especially about themselves) …and much, much more.
The physical response can also be very subtle initially, but in the more obvious instances symptoms often mirror chronic versions of the acute reaction to seeing that sabre tooth tiger nearby: