How an Over-Active Sympathetic Nervous System Correlates with Patient Symptoms

Many conditions are related to chronic Fight/Flight/Freeze.

The Autonomic Nervous System regulates heart rate, breathing, blood pressure, and digestion.

It has two branches:
1. Sympathetic= Fight/Flight
2. Parasympathetic= Rest/Digest

brain art
Brain Map Example

An Appropriate Fight/Flight response is when we are hiking in the woods and we hear a loud noise in a bush, we go into Fight/Flight.  Looking and listening for cues of danger.

We pay attention with ALL of our SENSES for SURVIVAL…to decide whether to RUN or FIGHT. This is great when we are in the woods where there are threats to our survival, such as a bear.

When we are in Fight/Flight our:

  • Heart rate increases
  • Breathing shallows (air hunger)
  • Stress Chemicals, such as cortisol and adrenaline are released
  • Our frontal lobe turns OFF

Our Frontal Lobe is our Filter and Stop Button

It is responsible for: 

  • Impulse and Emotional control
  • Sustained Attention
  • Initiation- starting a task
  • Planning & Organization
  • Working Memory- “What did I go into this room for?

Our Frontal Lobe helps us STOP and think BEFORE we act.

We don’t need our frontal lobe in Fight/Flight.

But, we do need our frontal lobe during every day life.


Chronic Fight/Flight

It is helpful to be in Fight/Flight when we hear a loud noise in the woods. However, if we learn that noise is only a squirrel, we should be able to take a deep breathe, get back out of Fight/Flight and back into “Rest/Digest”. This allows us to be calm and enjoy our hike, taking in the beauty and being in the present.

If we get STUCK in CHRONIC FIGHT/FLIGHT and rarely return to Rest/Digest, we can be easily overstimulated, anxious, and DISTRACTED.  Our sensory systems are constantly alerting us of EVERYTHING in the environment, because it might be danger.

Our nervous system can become overwhelmed and defensive to sensory input. Even if we are only going about our typical routine, such as going to the grocery store, driving, work/school. 

It can be related to:

Sensory Sensitivities

Constant moving

Poor Sleep

Avoidance of Tasks

Emotional Reactions




Digestive Issues

Defiant Behaviors


Poor Performance

Our nervous system is interconnected with most of our symptoms. We simply need to learn how to assess the system and reconfigure how it runs.