My Amygdala was Hijacked

26 April 2021


I want to share a cautionary tale ….. 

Last week I was the victim of a bank scam - I didn’t thankfully press the button, but I got very close to transferring funds, and in the cold light of day I’m so embarrassed to even admit to this, but I wanted to share my story as it is such a prime example of how when faced with a stressful situation; reasoning and judgement can easily become flawed - my amygdala was hijacked (along with a little bit of self worth too!)

It started with a text message in the morning from who I thought was Royal Mail, requesting payment of a £2 surcharge fee. That afternoon I received a call claiming to be my bank - there had been suspected fraudulent activity on my account “had I made any transactions today” - it was all part of the same scam! 

They said they needed to call me back from the “fraud dept “ and even cloned the number of my bank - so that number showed up on my phone! 

At this point they then said more activity was being attempted on my account, heightening my stress and need to act. They said I needed to transfer funds to a new account that would be created immediately online - and at this point thankfully I hung up! 

But why did I go along with it for so long? When emotion takes over, an amygdala hijack occurs.

The amygdala is a collection of cells near the base of the brain associated with emotions, impulses, aggression and instinctive behaviour. The prefrontal cortex is where thinking and reasoning happen, allowing you to process and think about your emotions. You can then manage these emotions and determine a logical response. Unlike the automatic response of the amygdala, the response to fear from your frontal lobes is consciously controlled by you. 

When you sense danger is present, your amygdala wants to activate the fight-or-flight response immediately. However, at the same time, your frontal cortex is processing the information to determine if danger really is present and the most logical response to it.

When the threat is mild or moderate, the frontal lobes override the amygdala, and you respond in the most rational, appropriate way. However, when the threat is strong, the amygdala acts quickly. It overpowers the cortex - and irrational behaviour wins out!  

What can we do to try and prevent a hijack?

Try to Remember the 6-second rule. It takes the chemicals that are released during the amygdala hijacking about 6 seconds to dissipate. Try to take a breath - focus on something kind, or heartwarming and this will prevent your amygdala from taking control and causing an over emotional reaction……. 

With love T x