Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Adrenaline: The Sunny Side

When the brain perceives danger, it goes to work. It diverts energy and blood flow from internal organs to muscles, increases heart rate and blood pressure, expands airways in the lungs, enlarges the pupils and alters the metabolism to maximize blood glucose levels. And, that's just the beginning.

It also tells the adrenal glands to release the Kraken! That Kraken comes in the form of adrenaline. That beautiful hormone can be our saving grace. Literally.

A sudden rush of adrenaline can make you feel a bit like a super hero and there’s a good reason for that: your brain thinks you need to be a super hero! However, that rush does not give you superhuman capabilities. It simply allows you to access abilities your body has always had but reserved for special occasions.

Despite what many think, and what is almost never portrayed on the screen or page, adrenaline has ill effects and aftereffects. However, on this post, we're just going to look at its sunny side.

Adrenaline can cause:

1.  Increase in strength and speed -  You may be able to drag that large man away from the burning vehicle and outrun that dog. (I have read of people lifting cars and I’m not sure that is so much adrenaline as divine intervention. BUT, you are definitely stronger.)

2.  Diminished pain response - This is why people who have been stabbed may not even know it until they see the blood and even then, they may not realize it’s their own blood. And, just as well, they may break something and not know it. (See video) Diminished pain response allows you to handle the emergency situation without being distracted by your own injuries. 
3.  Heightened senses - Tunnel vision, objects seeming larger and acute hearing can all be experienced. This allows you to focus on the threat or emergency at hand. 

4.  Pupil dilation - This goes directly with heightened senses. The pupils enlarge to allow in more light and allow for better vision.

5.  Time distortion - Yes, things really do appear to go in slow motion. According to Live Science, “…such time warping seems to be a trick played by one's memory. When a person is scared, a brain area called the amygdala becomes more active, laying down an extra set of memories that go along with those normally taken care of by other parts of the brain.” (

6. Emotional detachment - This allows you to deal with the situation without letting emotion cloud judgement or muddle thinking. In my teens I was in a car accident with my best friend. When the car came to rest on its side, I opened my eyes and saw that I was spattered in blood. I calmly felt my face and neck for injuries. I then noticed my friend who had gone through then come back in through the windshield. She was covered in blood and lifeless.  I thought, this is not my blood. This is her blood. I am in the car with a dead girl. I need to get out. If I unbuckle my seatbelt, I will fall on her. I need to step on the steering wheeI. I can’t. My legs are broken. I need to scream for help.  Every thought was clear and calm. It wasn’t until I was out of the car and on my feet that I began shaking and reality set it. Thanks be to the good Lord, my friend is alive and well.

In the next round at, we will look at the not so great, throw-uppy, pants wetty side of adrenaline. Until then, get blood on your pages!


  1. Hey, good article!

    I've used LTC Dave Grossman's books On Killing and On Combat as references for this topic. He doesn't just talk about adrenaline, but all the effects combat and other related high-stress situations have on a person.

    He's got a website called "killology" and a page on that site that talks about your topic, giving the same basic info you've got, but with more detail. If your readers want more detail covering combat stress effects, here's a link:

    Have a great day!

    1. (Well, LTC Grossman actually talks mostly about psychology in the article I linked--but also about physiological effects...)


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