What Is Adrenaline?

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Adrenaline is a stress hormone known as epinephrine. Produced by the adrenal glands and released into the bloodstream, adrenaline is part of the “fight or flight” response. When facing a perceived stressor or threat, this hormone stimulates the nervous system.

Imagine you’re riding your bike, and a person appears suddenly, causing you to swerve. Your body will produce adrenaline, which leads to an immediate physical reaction. You may sweat, feel your heart racing, or your body shaking. This is a healthy, natural response. When you’re in a dangerous, unsafe, or problematic situation, this adrenaline can help you react quickly.

However, you can experience an adrenaline rush when taking the stage at a crowded stadium, before a competitive sporting event, when you’re on a roller coaster, or if you’re in the middle of an argument, among other situations.

Characteristics

Produced alongside cortisol and aldosterone, adrenaline releases when you’re in a crisis or experiencing a strong emotion like excitement or fear. It happens automatically. When adrenaline is released, messages are sent to different organs in your body, such as the heart and lungs.

When adrenaline is released, you may experience:

  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Increased heart rate
  • Heightened senses
  • Decreased sensitivity to pain
  • Enlarged pupils
  • Shaky limbs
  • Excessive sweating

When you’re in a “fight-or-flight” situation, you may run faster than you normally would, or you may not feel pain, even if you’ve been injured. This can happen when your body shifts to survival mode.

When you’re in dangerous, unsafe situations, this reaction can help keep you safe. Once the situation has changed and you’re no longer facing a threat or stressor, your body will start to calm down, and the symptoms will subside.

Effects on Body and Mind

Some people love to experience the spike of adrenaline. Bungee jumpers, car racers, and athletes may chase this feeling, pushing themselves beyond their boundaries. For thrill-seekers, adrenaline is addictive.

Too much adrenaline can become a problem, especially if you’re experiencing chronic stress. If you’re perpetually in “fight-or-flight” mode, you're going to experience prolonged symptoms, which can harm your mind and body. 

A frequent overload of adrenaline can lead to:

  • Digestive problems
  • Headaches
  • Muscle tension
  • Insomnia
  • Weight gain
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke 

Adrenal gland disorders can also occur if you don’t produce enough hormones or produce too many. Pheochromocytoma, for instance, is a tumor that can result from too much adrenaline. This can lead to high blood pressure and other symptoms. 

Adjusting Adrenaline Levels

Maybe you work in a high-stress environment, such as a hospital or a school, or you’re dealing with personal stressors, like marital problems, which can cause an overload of adrenaline. 

To limit the frequency of adrenaline rushes, you want to address the stressors in your life and practice healthy coping strategies. These could include:

  • Daily exercise
  • Meditation 
  • Deep breathing
  • Mindful rest
  • Healthy eating
  • Limiting caffeine or alcohol intake

Prolonged stress is detrimental to your health and well-being, but it can be addressed. If you’re having trouble minimizing the stress in your life, we recommend speaking to a mental health professional who can offer coping strategies or treatment options.

Treatment for Anaphylaxis

Adrenaline is used in emergencies to treat a serious allergic reaction, known as anaphylaxis. It can stimulate the heart, relax the muscles in the airways, raise blood pressure, and improve breathing, preventing the progression of life-threatening respiratory or cardiovascular symptoms.

If you’re allergic to bees and get stung or if you’re allergic to peanuts and eat peanut butter, then you need to inject adrenaline quickly to combat hives, throat swelling, shortness of breath, or other symptoms of anaphylaxis.

Epinephrine Auto-Injector, commonly called an EpiPen, reverses symptoms. However, if it’s not used immediately following an allergic reaction and the individual doesn’t receive medical attention, anaphylaxis can lead to death, so it’s important to keep an EpiPen accessible if you have known allergies.

A Word From Verywell

You may or may not enjoy the feeling of adrenaline, but it’s a natural, human reaction. You shouldn’t avoid certain activities, like public speaking, for the sake of avoiding the anxious feeling of an adrenaline rush, but engaging in risk-taking behaviors can also be problematic. 

If you’re an adrenaline junkie, take precautions to protect yourself and those around you. If you’re experiencing too much adrenaline on a frequent basis or you need more coping strategies to deal with an anxiety disorder or other psychological stressors, consider speaking to a therapist.

An adrenaline rush can be life-saving. It can also be overwhelming. If you’re unable to manage your stress or are feeling.

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  1. McLean-Tooke APC, Bethune CA, Fay AC, Spickett GP. Adrenaline in the treatment of anaphylaxis: what is the evidence? BMJ. 2003;327(7427):1332-1335.