Thursday, May 10, 2012

Why it's Important to Understand Adrenaline

If you're ever faced with a dangerous situation you're probably going to experience an adrenaline surge.  It doesn't have to be a physical confrontation - it might be something like a car accident, or even just a sudden fright

Whatever the perceived danger may be, your brain is hard-wired to send a surge of adrenaline through your body, and there are a number of physical side-effects that you should be aware of :
  • its function is to make you faster, stronger, and feel less pain - which are survival traits
  • however your vision can become tunnelled in a forward direction - often causing threats from the side to disappear from your field of vision (see top photo for an example)
  • your hearing can also become tunnelled - sometimes preventing you from hearing attacks or warnings that come from the side.

It is thought that this forward-focus is a primal survival response that goes back to a time when primitive man would face an imminent attack from a dangerous wild animal... and become totally focused on that threat !!!

The after-effects of an adrenaline surge are also something you should be aware of :

  • Firstly, your hands can shake, and you can feel quite weak.  This is simply a result of the falling blood sugar that was pumped into your system to provide the energy needed for a flight-or-fight survival response. 
  • Secondly, there can be a sleep-inducing effect from the adrenaline wash-out and endorphin rush, which triggers a cut-out switch in the brain. This sudden fainting episode is simply caused by a drop in blood pressure and heart-rate, and should not be confused with a fear response.
  • Thirdly, an unexpected release of strong emotion that was suppressed during the adrenaline surge.  Most often this erupts in the form of crying - which shocks and embarrasses people when they don't know to expect it. 

All of these points are common, and they can affect anyone at anytime.  As an example, following is frank and honest account of a confrontation from a martial arts Instructor :

I was woken very early on Sunday morning (about 4am) by someone groaning.  At first I thought one of my children had fallen out of bed.  But when I heard two voices, I knew it was coming from outside.

I looked out the window to see a man lying on my drive-way, and a woman standing over him.  I ensured that my family was safe and secure, and went outside into the darkness.

Not knowing what to expect, I approached the couple cautiously, just in case the scenario was a set-up.  I kept a safe distance, and told them to keep their voices down.

The woman apologised and tried to help the man up off the concrete.  He gradually got to his feet, and apologised for the noise.  He staggered around - obviously drunk - then suddenly held out his hand to shake mine.

In response I stepped back to create more distance, and raised my hands into a natural defensive-barrier.  "No" I said to him "It's ok, just leave, and keep your voices down." 

He responded with a drunken "Ok", and they staggered off down the street. Then, as I made my way back to my front door, I started to feel woozy.  I closed the door, and my wife asked if I was ok?  I told her "No", and immediately laid down on the floor.

The next thing I remember I was coming out of a dark tunnel, with very short deep breaths.  Apparently I had been out for about 10 to 15 seconds.

My wife asked me if I had been in a fight, and I told her "No... they just left and I came inside."

I remembered feeling the initial effects of an adrenaline surge as the drunk got up and lurched towards me to shake my hand.  But passing-out after the situation ended was not a side-effect I expected... especially from someone with my martial arts experience.

It wasn't until later that I learnt (from a fellow Black Belt who was a doctor), that my short fainting spell was caused by a drop in blood pressure and heart rate... which is designed to make the body horizontal, and allow the heart to recover its normal function more easily.

So if it ever happens to anyone you're with, simply place them in the recovery position (see below). 

Finally, here is a summary of points about experiencing an adrenaline surge :
  • it will make you faster, stronger, and feel less pain
  • however your vision and hearing can become tunnelled
  • afterwards your hands may shake, and you might feel weak
  • there can be a fainting episode as the body re-adjusts itself
  • or even an outburst of emotion (crying).

For more important insights into Adrenaline, click on the link below.
It will take you to an International Bodyguard Association blog :

It's Primal Protection.