What Happens When You Get an Adrenaline Rush?

Medically Reviewed on 10/21/2021
what happens when you get an adrenaline rush
An adrenaline rush is a defense mechanism that equips you to escape a threatening event. Learn about what happens during an adrenaline rush

Also called the fight-or-flight response or stress response, an adrenaline rush is an important defense mechanism that equips you to escape a threatening event mainly by prioritizing the body functions necessary for survival. 

Adrenaline is a hormone that gets released into your bloodstream, causing the body to channel all its energy into focusing on the situation at hand, putting all other functions on pause. 

8 symptoms of an adrenaline rush

  1. Increased heart rate and blood pressure: This helps circulate oxygen and nutrients more effectively to the major muscle groups in the body.
  2. Increased ability to focus: Your senses may be heightened and you may become more aware of your surroundings. Thinking ability is increased, helping you make quick decisions. Oxygen supply to the brain is also increased, leading to improved alertness.
  3. Increased pain threshold: During an adrenaline rush, you may feel less pain during stressful or frightening situations or not realize how severely you’re injured until you escape and the rush wears off.
  4. Dilated pupils: Your pupils may widen, which improves your vision by allowing more light to enter.
  5. Rapid breathing: Your airways may widen and breathing become faster to meet the increased oxygen demands of the body.
  6. Increased energy and strength: Stored fat and glucose are used to raise blood sugar levels to meet increased energy requirements.
  7. Pale or flushed skin: As blood flow is redirected to the muscles and brain, your skin may become pale and hands and feet may feel cold. Your face may appear flushed under the influence of circulating hormones.
  8. Trembling or lightheadedness: An adrenaline rush can make you feel jittery or tense. Bowel and bladder control may even be reduced. Some people feel lightheaded or report varied effects on their memory. They may clearly or vividly remember the stressful event or may not remember anything at all.

How long does an adrenaline rush last?

Although an adrenaline rush occurs immediately, the length of time it lasts is largely determined by what triggered it. 

Generally, it may take 20-30 minutes to calm down. The effects of adrenaline on the body, however, may take longer (typically an hour) to subside.

What triggers an adrenaline rush?

An adrenaline rush occurs when you are in a dangerous, threatening, stressful, or exciting situation. Examples include:

  • Nearing an examination or job interview
  • During a public performance, especially when performing for the first time
  • Extreme sports, such as bungee jumping, skydiving, paragliding, etc.
  • Being worried or stressed about something

In some cases, however, symptoms of an adrenaline rush may also be caused by certain underlying health conditions, such as adrenaline-secreting tumors.

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Medically Reviewed on 10/21/2021
References
Cleveland Clinic. What Happens to Your Body During the Fight or Flight Response? https://health.clevelandclinic.org/what-happens-to-your-body-during-the-fight-or-flight-response/

Harvard Health Publishing. Understanding the stress response. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/understanding-the-stress-response