The Autonomic Nervous System influences the function of internal organs — a control system that acts largely unconsciously regulating bodily functions such as heart rate, digestion, respiratory rate, urination and sexual arousal. It is also the primary mechanism in charge of the fight-or-flight response (the stress response).
If the Autonomic Nervous System gets stuck in Sympathetic overdrive it can lead to a litany of symptoms such as: Migraines, TMJ, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Tachycardia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Anxiety, Hypertension, Reproductive Dysfunction, Fibromyalgia and more.
Please see below for more information on how the Autonomic Nervous System can become dysregulated and cause these symptoms:
Normal Autonomic Functioning
Normally, the body functions in a balanced state, called homeostasis. But when there is an acute stressor, such as stumbling across a mountain lion, it shifts to the sympathetic nervous system, also known as the fight-or-flight response.
During this shift, the body shuts down some normal, but crucial, functioning for a short time, such as reproduction and digestion, focusing all the body’s basic functions on protecting the body from the life-threatening stressor.
Once the body has dealt with the acute stressful event, it shifts to the parasympathetic nervous system, or the relaxation-and-digest response.
And then, eventually shifts back to homeostasis, or autonomic balance.
Problems Related with the Autonomic Nervous System
Problems occur within the autonomic nervous system when the stress is chronic, not acute.
Chronic stress is when an immense amount of stress over an extended period of time gets the body stuck into sympathetic nervous system overdrive.
*Note: POTS/Dysautonomia is an extreme autonomic nervous system condition that has most or all of these symptoms at the same time.
The body has become accustomed to such an ongoing cycle of intense stress that it does not shift back unconsciously to the parasympathetic nervous system.
A person suffering with chronic stress is in a constant state of fight-or-flight mode, where some or all of their autonomic functions are shut down, eventually leading to or triggering the many painful and debilitating aforementioned issues with the body.
All of these symptoms — that are the actual functions of the Sympathetic Nervous System — can eventually be prevented if one can shift out of Sympathetic overdrive into Parasympathetic and eventually reset Autonomic Balance (or homeostasis) and experience normal functions again.