Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Amygdala Hijack

                This article describes the amygdala and how it effects us. The amygdala is responsible for regulating emotions. It is mostly associated with “fear and anxiety”.  The amygdala has been called the "general-purpose defense response control network". Some response reactions can lead to “unpleasant sights, sensations, or smells”. The amygdala has several emotions it expresses when triggered. Improper functioning of the amygdala can be associated with the following:  anxiety, autism, depression, narcolepsy, post-traumatic stress disorder, phobias, and schizophrenia. A damaged amygdala can lead to “social-blindness”. Studies have also shown that when the amygdala is not functioning correctly before six months of age then they will result in having a difficult time adapting to social life. 

       This topic can be related to the field of counseling for several reasons. Counselors may encounter a client that is suffering from an “amygdala hijack” which can cause then to live a life in a paralyzed state. Once counselors know what the source of the problem for their clients, facing anxiety or fear, the better counselors can become better helpers. Also, the results, of the improper functioning for the amygdala, are all mental disorders that counselors will have to deal with. Counselors can decipher certain triggers that cause people to act out in an unhealthy/destructive way, when memories are recalled, by better understanding the amygdala part of the brain. An emotional response can take over the brain if the brain is feeling threatened. Counselors can be better “helpers” by identifying what is causing clients to “fight or flight” and that can begin by a better understanding of the amygdala.

                I was personally impacted by this subject, because I too have been in a circumstance that caused me to feel like I had to fight or flight. Although, in my experience I was unable to fight or flight because my boyfriend (at the time) was much larger than me and I was pinned in a corner unable to leave the terrifying experience. Since then I have had experiences in my life that have reminded me of those emotions that I felt that day. Understanding how the amygdala works and functions, after a traumatic event, personally helps me to recognize when I am experiencing an “amygdala-hijack”. While researching this topic for this blog, I feel more confident in knowing the warning signs of an approaching “amygdala-hijack” and hopefully will be able to recognize them. The warning signs are: “strong emotional reaction, sudden onset, and when you reflect later, you realize it was inappropriate" (Horowitz, 2012). Overall I feel this topic has helped me personally during this healing process I am still on and by helping me become a better “helper” one day.

Here is a link to a short video that explains the amygdala and how it effects the brain:
Horowitz, S. (2012). Emotional intelligence - stop amygdala hijackings. Retrieved from


  1. Hi Nicole, great post!! I do remember Dr. Corsini talking about this in class. Everyone hopefully agree to this and when our amygdala highjacks. I can recall certain situations in my life that will almost always take me back to a time when I first felt uncomfortable. Whenever I guys touches me wrong and gets to aggressive my mind goes back to the first time that ever happened to me. I was a little girl. Anyway, I would just that guy to leave me alone and never touch me like that ever again. Great blog

  2. Hey Nicole,
    I greatly appreciate your article and your willingness to be transparent for a bit. I am very sorry to hear about the unfortunate and harmful situation that you found yourself awhile back - not cool at all!!!
    At the same time, I am very thankful for all the ways in which God has carried you through, even in the midst of the action taken by someone else.
    The whole brain thing can be very a very confusing topic for me to understand at times, so thank you breaking it down in simple terms :-) Much to think about and much to apply - personally and professionally.


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