Responding to Danger
Our minds and bodies respond reflexively to danger.
When the brain registers a threat, it sends out a set
of orders to the body to prepare it. The heart rate
increases, vasoconstriction occurs, breathing speeds
up, and the adrenal gland kicks into high gear. As
a result, physiological changes occur.
The heart can actually increase the body’s blood
volume threefold when under extreme stress. It increases
its rate so that some people experience a pounding
heart. In extreme circumstances, the heart may even
Vasoconstriction is the body’s way
of ensuring that the vital organs get plenty of life-saving
oxygenated blood. The blood vessels of the outer limbs
constrict to force the blood into the torso and head.
Symptoms can range from cold hands and feet to completely
numb arms and legs. Due to the increased blood flow,
the artery directly behind the inner ear becomes dilated,
applying an increased pressure on the inner ear, which
prevents the eardrum from functioning properly. This
can lead to diminished hearing and, under high levels
of stress aural exclusion (temporary
deafness). Increased blood pressure in the head can
even lead to complete ocular exclusion (temporary
In addition to blood loss in the extremities, any
bodily function not associated with immediate survival
loses its blood supply, such as the gastrointestinal
tract. This causes the symptoms of stomach upset, nausea,
diarrhea and dry mouth. Another side effect is that
the body voids itself (bladder and bowels), so that
it doesn’t have to waste precious blood processing
food and waste.
The taste of fear occurs due to this realignment of
bodily functions in survival mode. What, you can taste
fear? Absolutely. This is the coppery taste or “cotton
mouth” that a person gripped by fear experiences.
This condition is caused by the body severely reducing,
or eliminating, the production of saliva. As well,
knocking of the knees is caused by the lack of blood
flow to the legs.