What Happens To Your Body When You Get An Adrenaline Rush

If you've ever felt a wave of heightened anticipation come over you as you hit the crest of a roller coaster before plunging down on the other side, you know the feeling of an adrenaline rush. According to WebMD, an adrenaline rush can present itself in the form of anxiety, nervousness, or even a feeling of exhilaration as your physiology changes in response to what's about to come. So what exactly is going on in our bodies in the midst of an adrenaline rush?

Also known as the fight-or-flight hormone, the release of adrenaline occurs in order to prime our body to effectively respond to stress (via Healthline). The adrenal glands produce adrenaline when prompted through a chain of chemical signals starting in the amygdala and traveling to the hypothalamus before reaching the glands themselves. As humans, we've been hardwired with this response as a means of self-preservation in the face of danger. While early humans experienced this fight-or-flight response when faced with a predator or other life-threatening situation, nowadays we can also experience an adrenaline rush in response to various activities such as zip-lining or skydiving.

What happens once adrenaline is released

As soon as adrenaline is dispersed into the bloodstream, the hormone elicits a series of bodily responses, including increased glucose production (for energy), quickened breathing, and inhibited insulin production (per Healthline). Additionally, adrenaline prompts blood vessels to reroute blood to our most critical muscles, boosts our heart rate, and increases sweat production. An adrenaline rush comes on fast and hard as an automatic fear response to perceived danger — so much so that we may react in the moment without being fully conscious of it.

In fact, an adrenaline rush can be so powerful that researchers from a 2022 study published in Nature Communications found that it may play a role in why fear-based memories often remain so ingrained in our psyche, more so than other memories. Lead researcher on the study Jeffrey Tasker stated via Science Daily that an adrenaline rush tied to a particularly scary experience, like being held at gunpoint, "transitions the brain to a state of heightened arousal that facilitates memory formation, fear memory, since it's scary."

While adrenaline no doubt serves an important purpose, it can pose health risks if released continuously over time, according to Healthline. Such risks include blood vessel damage, high blood pressure, insomnia, headaches, and an increased risk for cardiovascular disease and stroke. Regular physical activity, deep breathing exercises, meditation, and limiting caffeine intake are just a few of the many ways to help mitigate the body's stress response.