We often refer to only adrenaline and the flight, fight or freeze mode. That is because it is the most recognized. There are other things that come into play with stress as well. It would take many years of schooling to understand it all. A degree in neuroscience as well as a few medical degrees.
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We have spent most of the time addressing adrenaline (also called epinephrine). We will do an overview of the other two.
Cortisol is the stress hormone that steps in after the initial adrenaline surge. One of its functions is that it controls your blood sugar. (This is very important to be aware of because many of the symptoms people experience with panic and anxiety attacks can be attributed to changes in blood sugar and as we just blogged effects of improper breathing.)
Cortisol also helps;
- regulate the sleep wake cycles,
- has a role in controlling Blood Pressure,
- to reduce inflammation.
DID YOU KNOW? It can cause;
- muscle weakness,
- high blood pressure,
- a flushed face,
- changes in mood irritability or feeling down
- can cause acne,
- can affect your weight,
- bruises or stretch marks,
- interference with learning and memory.
Many people with anxiety disorders have sleep disturbances. Understanding cortisol will help you understand more about insomnia and other sleep disturbances. In those with anxiety daily normal hormonal patterns of cortisol release for normal sleeping do not exist as they should. Altered cortisol levels can causes insomnia, and insomnia can cause higher cortisol levels. You can start to see why sleeping may be difficult. It is not just the fear of a major health issue that is causing your difficulty sleeping but the higher cortisol levels caused by insomnia. And the levels caused by insomnia can persist for up to 24 hours.
When released, cortisol adds to some functions as in preparation for flight or fight, but it curbs others. The most important for our readership is that the digestive system is suppressed, hence more reasons why you may experience GI symptoms. Some people also experience a change in their mood, their motivation and fear can also come easier.
Unless you want to get a neuroscience degree just understand that the information presented here is just the tip of an iceberg but it is all meant to educate you why you are experiencing all those symptoms that make you want to rush to the ER and cause you live your life in fear and terror. We want to take away the fear through education.
Just a note about PTSD. When the stress hormone cortisol remains higher in some individuals it may be a contributing factor.
Adrenaline is the rapid response to stress and about the time it is naturally decreasing in 10 or so minutes, that is when the cortisol is kicking in. Cortisol can last for several hours. It does not cause the same intense symptoms of adrenaline but in the coming down period people can experience negativity become or remain anxious, and just feel really bad.
Those that start to fear any of the symptoms of the stress hormones can cause another release of those hormones! That is what we refer to as waves of attacks or rolling attacks. Once you can take away the fear armed with facts, you should be able to decrease and eventually eliminate any waves of attacks. That is an important step to overcoming panic attacks…
Those with severe health anxiety because of the frequency and repetition of fears could have ongoing elevated cortisol levels always challenging your ability to feel good because of the coming down period as explained above.
There is research that says that higher cortisol levels can prolong the effects of an adrenaline surge. This comes into play when we discussed waves of panic attacks.
The third stress hormone is norepinephrine. It is released, like a backup for adrenaline. It also is responsible for increasing heart rate while causing blood vessels to constrict. It affects our moods, our emotions, our sleep. It causes an increase in alertness and energy but to many that translates to increased restlessness and anxiety.
Wikipedia says too much norepinephrine causes a distinctive set of symptoms including aches and pains, rapid heartbeat, elevated blood pressure, sweating, palpitations, anxiety, headache, paleness, and a drop in blood glucose. If sympathetic activity is elevated for an extended time, it can cause weight loss and other stress-related body changes
Let’s look at the symptoms of low blood sugar.
- An irregular heart rhythm
- Pale skin
- Tingling sensation around the mouth
Individuals who suffer from panic attacks anxiety disorder are constantly sharing their symptoms with others, seeking explanations. I would like to see the day where more start to share facts on what causes symptoms.
Armed with the truth and a complete physical that let you know everything is working properly. We want you to be able to take away the stronghold of fear to be able to start to live out your purpose.
You need to understand how the body works and then retrain your brain, change your thought patterns, to that which you desire.
FIGHT BACK FIGHT FEAR