When a situation occurs that causes panic and shock, the human body experiences a state of being called the ‘Adrenal Stress Response’. During that time, our body undergoes drastic changes to help us warn and adapt to the situation so we can act/react accordingly to it, in order to survive.
There are a lot of things going on during that time, they happen simultaneously on a cellular basis. The sympathetic nervous system stimulates the fight or flight response. It is definitely a long and complicated list. Down below I’m writing down a shorter version of that list;
Here are some of the effects on a human body that is under adrenal stress;
- Blurry vision
- Tunnel vision
- Distorted Hearing
- Shaky hands
- Profuse Sweating
- Rapid heart beat
- Heavy breathing
- Pit in the Stomach (due to metabolism slowing down during fight or flight response)
- Numbness in the extremities
- Lack of/Minimal use of coordination and fine motor movements
- Fear and panic causes impulse and instinct based thinking from the reptilian brain – basal ganglia, rather than emotion-based from the paleomammalian – limbic brain or logic-based from the neomammalian brain – neocortex.
- Weak/Trembling knees
- Physical Temperature drop (due to blood draining from unnecessary parts of the body to provide extra blood/oxygen supply for actions during fight or flight response)
- Time distortion
- Extreme psychological stress due to the release of 4 major stress hormones; Epinephrine, Norepinephrine, Cortisol and Cortisone.
- Many have also been known to void their bladders and/or bowels during highly stressful situations.
- Many lose sense of direction. That’s why many who go through extremely stressful situations, can’t remember their names or tell left from right, if asked in the moment.
There are also certain after-effects of such situations. Some of these are temporary but some of them last quite a long time, this depends on factors such as the psychological resilience of the individual and/or the level of threat of the situation they’re in.
The effects are as follows;
- Paranoia and Continued Fear
- Trembling limbs
- Chronic Psychological trauma
- Reclusive behavior
- Loss of confidence
- Loss of or distorted short-term memory, especially the exact details of the situation.
These are just some of the changes and effects that a human body undergoes during and after a traumatic event. The event that causes stress, doesn’t necessarily have to be violence-related, it can be any situation that would cause enough trauma via psychological or physical means, resulting in the body’s reaction to it.
An example of this would be someone who has been in a car accident or someone who’s had a strong, aggressive verbal argument with someone or an individual who’s just been on a roller-coaster for the first-time (this is a very low level of stress caused by the hormone; Adrenaline).
The effects mostly wear off after 30-60 minutes due to the parasympathetic nervous system activating back again and “reversing” – (it’s technically not reversing, but just restoring the body to it’s natural resting state) – the effects of the sympathetic nervous system’s actions during the fight or flight response.
The effects of stress vary for different individuals in different situations, the effects are also based on the levels of stress caused to the individual. For example, someone who has been on a roller-coaster won’t be traumatized for life, unless they have acrophobia of course. But someone who has just been rescued from a blazing building will experience some sort of trauma and might even develop a phobia of fire (pyrophobia) if they don’t seek help after the event.
These effects can be reduced, but not erased, they’re a part of us, no matter how much you train or experience them on a daily basis, they will kick in when you’re in a stressful situation. It’s evolutionary biology. But as I said, training and/or experiencing them regularly can help reduce those effects so as to not let them overwhelm you when you least expect them to.
You cannot control that state of mind and body, but you sure can train and condition yourself to function competently with moderate effectiveness under those conditions to ensure your survival, possibly others survival as well, and save yourself from a long lasting psychological trauma.
This topic is actually a very vast subject of study, but I tried my best to compress as much as I could in one article to provide as much information as possible. Hope you liked reading it and find it useful. Thanks for reading.