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Fight of flight mechanism in freediving

Christophe Hopchet

New Member
May 27, 2020
3
1
1
30
Belgium
Hi everyone!

I'm writing my instructor thesis about the fight or flight mechanism in freediving. I'm new to the subjet and i'm still looking for a good angle of approach. Questions I ask myself are; What are the most common triggers? What's the relation of the fight or flight mechanism with the mamalian dive reflex? Can you supress the mechanism and how? Does fight or flight only affects beginners? What if it hits you during a deep dive?
Can anyone help me with insight or documentation?

Thanks a lot!
Kind regards,
Christophe
 

Nathan Vinski

Well-Known Member
Apr 19, 2015
247
144
58
24
Canada
Hi everyone!

I'm writing my instructor thesis about the fight or flight mechanism in freediving. I'm new to the subjet and i'm still looking for a good angle of approach. Questions I ask myself are; What are the most common triggers? What's the relation of the fight or flight mechanism with the mamalian dive reflex? Can you supress the mechanism and how? Does fight or flight only affects beginners? What if it hits you during a deep dive?
Can anyone help me with insight or documentation?

Thanks a lot!
Kind regards,
Christophe

That's a very challenging sets of questions to answer..

I'd say that you shouldn't ever experience a F-or-F response at all during freediving. If you do it's because something went wrong.

-Common triggers is something/anything going wrong and the diver being aware of it.

-(it takes ages to find articles, so I'll leave that to you), but the dive response is 'technically' a stress response. The more stressed you are (F-or-F) the stronger it should be, however you'll still consume more O2, which is why diving stressed never works well. **like I said, can't find articles but there have been some experiments done on ducks and seals being forced to hold their breath, and the more stressed the animals were the stronger their DR. (These studies were quoted in the book 'Deep', by James Nestor.

-The mechanism can be supressed (in my opinion) by being well prepared for the diving you're about to do including bad situations. No matter what, if something dangerous and unexpected happens that you aren't prepared for, F-or-F will be triggered. If you've thought of, and prepared a solution to these potential problems, then F-or-F won't be an issue if they do actually happened for real.

- I think F-or-F can affect any level of diver, it's just much more likely to affect beginners because they have much less experience dealing with uncomfortable situations that may arise during a freedive, and are therefor more likely to panic than calmly resolve the situation.

in my case, I remember on one of my first dives to 25m, my lanyard got tangled on the bottom, and this totally freaked my out.. I yanked it a few times, then ripped off the wrist part and sprinted back to the surface extremely out of breath (complete 'Flight' response). Last year, this happened to me at 66m, and I had no reaction to it. I calmly sank back down to the plate, unstrapped my lanyard, untangled it, and then ascended with it in my hand. Overall, it was actually a really nice dive. So with experience, it's possible that 'bad' situations don't affect you as much or at all.

- If it hit's on a deep dive (let's assume a tangled lanyard panic, at 60m).. I think it's very likely to result in a squeeze, there are significantly increased chances of BO or LMC.. Most likely you'll get much stronger contractions, and you'll probably end up sprinting the whole way back the surface. Again, the idea is to at least psychologically prepare for these types of unexpected situations so that you can deal with them calmly and never reach F-or-F mode.
 

Leander

Well-Known Member
Oct 17, 2017
213
112
58
37
Between here and nowhere
I'd say that you shouldn't ever experience a F-or-F response at all during freediving. If you do it's because something went wrong.
I don't agree with that. When diving you're in a wild environment. This is somewhat less true when diving in a pool, but even there you're not a liveable environment for humans so even a single spark of doubt or anxiety, or something simple as a sudden cramp can trigger a runaway reaction.
When diving in the blue, and especially when spearfishing, you're bound to come across unexpected situations. Entanglements is one, but interaction with the sealife is another, and one that you cannot predict.

The fight-or-flight response keeps us alive. It's a good thing. But you have to learn how to handle it.

A long time ago at a scuba club I had an instructor who challenged us all the time. He did this by sneaking up from behind, grabbing you regulator and tieing it behind you, or stealing your mask, shutting the tank's valve, having us swim laps with a weight belt wrapped around the legs, buddy-breathing with a blindfolded mask, or even simply by acting as if there is something very very wrong, in order to induce panic. I sometimes joked about him not teaching us how to dive, but how to drown. He did this to get us familliar with the panic. This way we learned to react to unforseen events in a way of "oh, hey, that's interesting.." instead of "omgimgonnadie!".
When I started climbing I trained myself the same way. I would ask the belayer to randomly short-rope me, I would intentionally climb of-route, etc.

A training like this doesn't supress the fight-or-flight mechanism, but it puts you in control of it.
 
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Christophe Hopchet

New Member
May 27, 2020
3
1
1
30
Belgium
Hi all,

During my research about fight or flight mechanism in freediving i'm trying to understand how stress and the MDR are affecting each other. Which respose is dominant. I've found an article about 'autonomic conflic' explaining that bradycardia (triggerd by MDR) and tachycardia (triggerd by stress) can happen at the same time and lead to irregular heart rythm which can be dangerous. Has this ever occured during freediving? The figure i'm posting underneath gives a good explaination on the matter.

This is the link to the paper:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3459038/

Thanks!
Christophe
Autonomic conflict.jpg
 
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