You're home alone, in bed, with the lights off. You hear a dull thud at the other end of the house, like an intruder trying to break in. You hold your breath and your eyes widen. Your heart pounds, your
Behind these instantaneous physical reactions is a system
designed to protect you. It begins in your middle ear, which detects the
sounds and feeds them to your brain, which communicates to your nervous
system that danger is imminent. This triggers physical reactions suited
to the level of threat. Fortunately, for most of us, the visceral urge
to fight, fly or freeze is relatively uncommon.
But for people who have experienced trauma or neglect, and
those with some psychiatric disorders, everyday scenarios can switch the
nervous system to high alert. So accustomed are they to danger they
detect it everywhere, unable to distinguish between friend and foe.
Flooded with fear, they freeze out other people and can end
up estranged from society. It can harm every aspect of life, from
forging relationships, to learning, to being physically well.