Adrenaline, also known as epinephrine, is a hormone that is released into the bloodstream in response to stress. So when you are stressed- maybe you lost your job, or maybe you are having relationship problems, or maybe you are having financial difficulties- your body reacts by releasing adrenaline. Adrenaline then travels to your heart, and it makes your heart beat faster. Adrenaline also travels to your brain, and there is an association between adrenaline levels and negative feelings, so the adrenaline makes you feel even worse when you are stressed. Adrenaline also increases your rate of breathing, stimulates skeletal muscle contraction, contracts the blood vessels in the skin and digestive tract, dilates the blood vessels in the skeletal muscles, and increases the production of glucose and fatty acids for more energy to the body.
So this is what is involved with the adrenaline response to stress, also known as the fight or flight response. In response to stress, fear, or anxiety, a part of the brain called the amygdala send signals to the sympathetic nervous system, which is a part of the autonomic nervous system which control your body organs without your conscious effort. The sympathetic nervous system is what mediates the fight or flight response, while the parasympathetic nervous system is active when feeding, resting, and reproducing.
When stress activates the amygdala, the amygdala then triggers the sympathetic nervous system to directly communicate with organs via nerves to, for instance, signal the heart to beat faster, and your lungs to breathe faster. The sympathetic nervous system also stimulates the adrenal medulla, a gland on top of your kidneys, to release adrenaline, or epinephrine, into the bloodstream. Adrenaline then is utilized as a hormone to signal, for instance, the heart and lungs to beat faster and breathe faster, respectively.
So the adrenaline response, released into the bloodstream from the adrenal medulla, acts in concert with the sympathetic nervous system to trigger the adrenaline response, or the fight or flight response. The adrenaline response results in the following changes in your body to prepare to fight the danger or to run from it: increases heart rate, increases rate of breathing, tenses skeletal muscles, diverts blood from nonessential organs (skin, reproductive system) to essential ones for survival (skeletal muscles, heart, brain), and increases the production of glucose and fatty acids for more energy.
Unfortunately, when you have chronic stress and anxiety, then this adrenaline response is constantly triggered, which is not helpful, as your body is thinking there is a real danger in the environment, when in actuality, the danger is being triggered by the way you think, behave, and deal with your stressors. So the adrenaline response is a negative consequence of chronic stress. So how to you deal with stress to prevent this adrenaline response from being triggered? You can learn more about handling stress and anxiety, and reducing your adrenaline response by clicking here.