Flight or Flight Response

Kiddo feeling angry often? They might be stuck in fight or flight mode!


sensory overload for children

Imagine this – you’re at a county fair with your family, enjoying the rides, cotton candy, and maybe even some animals. You turn your head for just a second to grab something from the stroller and when you look up, you don’t see your kiddo. What would your body do?

The appropriate response would be a heightened heart rate, a heightened sense of sight and hearing, and an adrenaline rush that puts you in overdrive to find your child.

What is “fight or flight” mode and how does it feel to your kiddo?

That feeling is “fight or flight” mode. It is an uncontrollable physical response where your brain tells your body “this is a threat” and your body responds in a way that will save you (or in this case, your kiddo). 

That physical response FEELS like a lot to you, as an adult. Now imagine being a child who does not yet understand those big feelings. They don’t know how to manage the adrenaline rush or why it is even happening. 

For your child, “fight” looks like – kicking, screaming, spitting, pushing, throwing, etc. while “flight” looks like – restlessness, running without concern for safety, fidgeting, etc. 

Kiddos who struggle with hyperactivity, impulsivity, and sensory challenges will not only find themselves in a “fight or flight” mode but they get STUCK in this “fight or flight”/ gas pedal mode.

what is a fight or flight response?

What causes your kiddo to go into “fight or flight” and stay there?

It all comes down to that beautiful brain in their head and the nervous system that stems from it. Your child’s nervous system is constantly communicating with their brain. The nerves say “Hey, you just put your hand on something warm!” and the brain says “pull your hand away!”. It all happens so quickly. The body perceives danger, reacts to it by going into “fight or flight”, then comes out of defense mode when the danger is gone. 

But when signals are misfiring, because of poor brain/body communication, your child goes into “fight or flight” in situations that it is not needed and cannot regulate themself out of that defensive mode. For our easily stimulated friends, sometimes that looks like the wrong texture of shirt touching their skin and they struggle to manage their big response to the “danger” that their brain perceived. 

The sympathetic nervous system tells the body to release adrenaline, followed by cortisol, so they have a burst of energy to remove themselves from “danger”. Imagine a car whose gas pedal is pressed to the floor. Full speed ahead.

When the body does not send the signal that the threat is gone, it remains in fight or flight mode. Your kiddo can see you trying to change their shirt and remove the “threat” but the signal isn’t reaching the brain. The cortisol keeps their body revved up and on high alert. Your child’s gas pedal is stuck down. Their brain cannot tell the body that the threat is gone and that it is okay to relax because their brain never got that signal.

chiropractic care for fight or flight

Helping your kiddo come out of “fight or flight” so their body can rest and restore

The nervous system starts at the base of your kiddos’ skull and continues down their spine, then weaves through the rest of their body. It sends the signal to the brain that the threat is gone and that it is time to stop the “defense mode”. But when there are interferences in the communication stream – we call that a subluxation in the nervous system – your kiddos brain does not get the signal to let off the gas… 

The blockages in communication are caused by “stress” that your kiddo feels. Sometimes this stress looks like an overly stimulating environment, a fall or extra hard tumble, or chemical stressors like an influx in processed food intake. These stressors are inevitable, but the thing that you can control is helping your kiddo’s nervous system get rid of the subluxation (blocking the messages) so that their brain can get the signal that it is okay to let down their defenses. 

As a nervous system-focused chiropractors, we concentrate on finding and removing the subluxations that are blocking the signals to your kiddo’s brain. We go in-depth on the tools we use to find the exact points of miscommunication here. After an adjustment at Blossom Family Chiropractic, your kiddo’s body will be able to better communicate with their brain and let it know that the defense is gone and that it is okay to rest. We would love to say that this is an immediate fix after just one adjustment, but it took time for your kiddo to get stuck in this “fight or flight” space and it will take time for their body to come out of it. 

In our St. Petersburg pediatric chiropractic office, we create customized care plans based on the results of the neurological scans we use. Each adjustment builds on the previous one to re-pattern the nervous system and take the foot off the gas pedal “fight or flight” by pumping the brakes (activating that rest and relaxation part of the nervous system). The adjustments change the way the body is able to receive and send information and restores normal nervous system function, allowing your kiddo to thrive!

Pediatric Chiropractor in St. Petersburg, Florida

If you are in the Tampa or St. Pete area and are looking for a pediatric chiropractor, contact us to schedule an appointment to see those unique scans of your child’s nervous system function and how pediatric chiropractic adjustments can help them come out of the “fight or flight” mode and into a balanced space where they can rest.