Adrenal Fatigue SymptomsAdrenal Fatigue Symptoms


The presence of stress naturally triggers our “fight-or-flight” response, our body’s primitive, automatic, inborn response that prepares the body to “fight” or “flee” from perceived attack, harm or threat to our survival and the origins go back to a time when our ancestors lived closer to natural predators. It protected them from the proverbial saber-toothed tigers that once lurked in densely forested settings, threatening their physical survival.


It was Walter Cannon, an American physiologist, who first described the fight-or-flight response in the 1920s. This acute stress response is associated with particular physiological actions in the sympathetic nervous system, mainly initiated by release of adrenaline and norepinephrine from the medulla of the adrenal glands. The release is triggered by acetylcholine released from preganglionic sympathetic nerves. These catecholamine hormones facilitate immediate physical reactions that include the following:



To protect yourself in a world of psychological – rather than physical – danger, you have to consciously pay attention to aforementioned signals that tell you when you are actually in fight-or-flight. You may experience these signals as physical symptoms like headaches, tension in your muscles, upset stomach, racing heartbeat, shallow breathing. Or you could experience them as emotional or psychological symptoms such as poor concentration, anxiety, depression, anger, hopelessness, frustration, sadness or fear.


By learning to recognize these signals of fight-or-flight response, you can prevent yourself from overreacting to events and fears that are not life threatening and you can begin to take steps to deal with the stress load in an alternative more healthy manner. You can for instance use the energy of your fight-or-flight response to help instead of harming you. You can do so by borrowing the beneficial effects (heightened awareness, mental sharpness and heightened pain tolerance) in order to change your emotional environment and deal productively with your thoughts, fears and (perceived) dangers.


Cumulative danger from over-activation due to excessive stress can lead to illnesses of the autonomic nervous system  (irritable bowel syndrome, headache and high blood pressure) and illnesses of the hormonal and immune systems (inability to heal properly, Adrenal Fatigue, depression, and autoimmune diseases). Sometimes excess stress does not manifest itself through the “feeling” of being stressed, in such cases there are often stress induced behaviours such as teeth-grinding and eye-twitching. In other cases people report feeling very stressed but don’t have any physical symptoms or signs in their body.


A diagnosis of Adrenal Fatigue encompasses a large number of generalized symptoms, some of which have been outlined above. There are other, lesser considered Adrenal Fatigue symptoms that can also be a part of the overall symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue. Someone suffering from Adrenal Fatigue may experience one or more of the following general adrenal fatigue symptoms:



In the early stages of Adrenal Fatigue, sufferers tend to be under a great deal of stress, leading to a feeling of perpetual alertness that interrupts normal sleep patterns. In the later stages of Adrenal Fatigue, sufferers exhibit a persistently low level of cortisol and other adrenal hormones. Blood sugar levels are particularly susceptible to these lower cortisol levels as these force your body into a state of hunger that can even wake you up from sleep. For this reason, many sufferers of Adrenal Fatigue are late-night snackers.


The hormone cortisol also has an effect on the immune system. Cortisol levels help to regulate your body’s anti-inflammatory response. The presence of inflammation generally signals that your body is fighting an infection, but the presence of appropriate levels of cortisol prevent this reaction from getting out of control.


Maintaining a balanced level of all hormones, especially cortisol, is essential to maintaining your body’s homeostasis. If your cortisol levels are too high because of sustained stress, the anti-inflammatory reaction can become too strong. This condition can effectively put a stop to your body’s natural immune system responses, and this internal environment can remain for the duration of the stressor.


If your immune system is not functioning as it should, your body becomes vulnerable to disease. On the other end of the spectrum, low levels of cortisol can allow your immune system to over-react to exposure to pathogens. This can, in turn, lead to a chronic state of inflammation or auto-immune diseases.


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