How the fight or flight response causes flushing (2023)

About anxiety

How the fight or flight response causes flushing (1)

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forEditorial team of the Calma ClinicmiMicah Abraham, BSc

How the fight or flight response causes flushing (2)

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Micah Abraham, BSc

Last updated on October 10, 2020

How the fight or flight response causes flushing (3)

The fight or flight response is a complex set of reactions that can be caused by fear and anxiety. Flushing or flushing of the face and/or other parts of the body is one of the many side effects of these reactions. Others may misinterpret the reaction as a sign of embarrassment or anger, which can lead to miscommunication and increased tension in the situation causing your anxiety.

Read on to learn exactly how and why the fight-or-flight response triggers the body's flushing, as well as what you can do to minimize this embarrassing side effect.

what does it mean to blush

Fight or flight is a primal reaction that has been with us ever since we encountered saber-toothed tigers. Although we now have fewer tigers to deal with, our responses to fear stimuli have remained remarkably similar.

During the fight or flight response, the body prepares to escape or fight the object of our fear or anxiety, although it is often the case with anxiety that there is no physical object to fight or flee from.


Blushing is a stress reaction that causes redness on the face and sometimes on other areas of the body, such as the arms and chest. It's more serious than blushing, which is more subtle, limited to the face and ears, and usually just indicates embarrassment.

Read on to find out what bodily actions cause redness and the reasons why it occurs.

How and why your body blushes

Your body does everything for a reason: however, the flushing is mainly due to the fact that what the body is doing for us in fight or flight is an unnecessary response to most modern situations.

Bodily reactions associated with fight or flight that cause flushing include:

  • adrenaline pressureThe adrenaline makes your body's circulatory system work twice as hard to compensate for the effort that is supposed to be necessary for the dramatic exit or the showdown to come. It is the main chemical released during fight or flight. Adrenaline dilates blood vessels. Your face has a lot of blood vessels and that creates that red glow. This is the main reason for fight/flight redness.
  • fast heart rateThe adrenaline that speeds up your heart rate causes your heart to pump extra blood throughout your body, feeding your muscles all the chemicals and nutrients they need to take action suddenly if necessary. The fast heart rate keeps the blood moving quickly, which can result in a slight red tint. This is directly related to the adrenaline rush.
  • Tension muscularMuscle tension can also accompany fight or flight, as glycogen is released into the muscles, giving them extra energy and strength. The tension caused by tightening these muscles can further increase blood flow.
  • fast breathingRapid breathing during fight or flight fuels the faster pumping of blood with the oxygen it needs. If you didn't breathe fast in this condition, your blood would starve of oxygen and you could pass out. Rapid breathing can also contribute to blood flow problems that cause flushing.
  • lack of movementWhen you don't fight or flee, but rather freeze or have no outlet for all that extra blood and muscle tension, the heart ends up releasing more blood flow than the muscles require, causing the skin to develop a pink or red tinge. 🇧🇷 This, combined with everything else, is the main reason for facial and body flushing.

Anxiety attacks often result in excess blood flowing through the heart, which can easily lead to flushing. However, the heart palpitations and nausea that can sometimes be associated with anxiety can also lead to paleness or paleness, the polar opposite of flushing.

If you're more prone to blushing or bleaching, you probably don't want to be. The next section will look at what you can do to avoid blushing when experiencing the fight or flight response.

How to minimize waste

There are several methods you can use to control your blushing problem, the no longer relevant remnant of a chain reaction we once needed to avoid being eaten by larger animals. Check out these modern solutions to an old problem below:

  • Eat healthier foodsFoods high in cholesterol clog arteries and force your heart to work even harder to pump blood through your system, causing even more blood to pool under your skin when you have anxiety attacks. Replacing desserts with healthier alternatives, such as homemade fruit smoothies, and large meals with lighter ones, can keep your body in better shape to process excess blood more quickly and reduce the duration of hot flash symptoms.
  • exercise regularlyAlso, exercising regularly is great for your body. It strengthens and enlarges the muscles, making it easier to use up excess blood in the system. Plus, when your body is fit and healthy, you'll have eliminated anxiety-inducing issues like negative body image and persistent physical discomfort from your life, making you less prone to anxiety attacks that lead to flushing.
  • Practice Yoga and/or MeditationPractices like yoga and meditation often focus primarily on controlling the functions and actions of the body with the mind. Breathing and relaxation exercises can help you calm your mind and body, slow your heart rate, and restore normal breathing. This signals your body to stop releasing fight-or-flight chemicals because the perceived danger has passed.
  • Try Cognitive Behavioral TherapyIf you still can't reduce your blushing problem, it might be a good idea to see if cognitive behavioral therapy works for you. This type of therapy is another way to train your body to react to anxiety-related stress in a healthier way, but with the help of professionals in the field.

As you change your lifestyle to reduce the stress on your heart and mind, the embarrassment of turning red all over for no good reason will soon be a thing of the past.

Don't forget that the embarrassment of blushing can also cause blushing. So you want to make sure you're okay with your redness. If you're blushing and someone asks if something's wrong, don't bother telling them that you tend to blush from time to time due to anxiety. Your openness will keep your anxiety from triggering.

Still, you need to make sure you take steps to reduce your anxiety and start to see real changes in your everyday life.

Questions? Comments?

Have a specific question that this article didn't answer? Send us a message and we will contact you!

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(Video) ERYTHROPHOBIA: Perceived Threats, Fight or Flight, & Blushing Skin


Where can I learn more about the Jacobson relaxation technique and other similar methods?


You can ask your doctor for a referral to a psychologist or other mental health professional who uses relaxation techniques to help patients. However, not all psychologists or other mental health professionals are aware of these techniques. Therapists often add their own "twist" to the techniques. The training varies according to the type of technique they use. Some people also buy CDs and DVDs on progressive muscle relaxation and let the audio guide them through the process.

Ask the doctor a question

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