What is signal anxiety?
What is a feedback loop? What is signal anxiety? Why do people freeze?
In Matt Powell’s new article at BreachBangClear, he answers these questions and the answer to them: Mental Models.
Two reactions are possible when we have panic-inducing anxiety. First, the mind can be overwhelmed with stimuli (for example, at the sight of a massive injury). People often say, ‘he froze when he saw blood.’ The mind becomes fixated on this stimuli instead of continuing to act on the threats around it. Panic is an action; unfortunately, it is an action that does not address threats. In this panic, a student stops acting and begins thinking about the stimuli rather than the threat, leading to physically freezing because he can’t process past the stimuli he never experienced before.
The second reaction occurs when signal-anxiety-based defenses are overwhelmed. In this situation defenses are ineffective, leading the anxiety to switch from reacting to the threat to reacting to a realization of possible annihilation by the threat. People in highly stressful environments often act without thought to their own safety because their defenses have been trained, and thus they have experiences to relate to and act on. But when their defenses are overwhelmed, they realize they could die; this realization becomes so overwhelming they stop acting in hopes of surviving. This may lead to a ‘hunker down’ or surrender mentality, or irrational behavior such as fleeing a safe area to try to save themselves.