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The Downfall of an Overactive SNS Andrew Marcoux- 100127691 Georgian College


The ANS, or autonomic nervous system, is the unconscious part of the nervous system, which is responsible for regulating nearly everything in the body. The ANS can be further broken down into two categories: sympathetic and parasympathetic. The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for the constant monitoring of the body, as well as the fight or flight reaction, which prepares the body for potential harm, and allows for maximum use of the essential body parts. The parasympathetic region is primarily responsible for the regulation of internal organs and glands while at rest. Since the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems generally work in opposition to each other, traits of the sympathetic nervous system may conflict with those of the parasympathetic whenever the sympathetic nervous system is overstimulation. Overstimulation of either one of these regions may cause harm to the body in physical or mental form.

The overstimulation of the sympathetic nervous system may lead to issues such as anxiety, depression, cancer, erectile dysfunction and chronic blushing. Anxiety is a disorder caused by the excessive production of adrenaline, without a specific trigger, such as noradrenaline (Overactive Sympathetic Nervous System, 2013). This overproduction may lead to the release of cortisol, which in large and consistent amounts may damage the brain, possibly leading to anxiety issues (Overactive Sympathetic Nervous System, 2013). Much like anxiety, depression can be brought-on by overactive sympathetic nervous system. Excessive release of cortisol may damage the brain, possibly leading to depression issues if not treated properly (Overactive Sympathetic Nervous System,

DOWNFALL OF AN OVERACTIVE SNS 2013). Cancer is another illness, which may be as a result of an overactive sympathetic

nervous system. Cancer may be indirectly brought-upon due to an overactive sympathetic nervous system, but is not formed directly due to the overactivity of this system. Since an overactivity of this system may reduce the immune systems ability to function efficiently, the susceptibility of cancer causing agents to affect the body is much more likely to cause cancer cells from growing (Kenny, 2012). Erectile dysfunction is another disorder that may be caused from an overactive sympathetic nervous system. Since both these nervous systems generally work in opposition to each other, the overactivity of the SNS would interfere with the parasympathetic regions function of erecting the male genital tissues. This interference would inhibit the ability to obtain an erect penis without the aid of a penile vasodilator like Viagra (US National Library of Medicine, n.d.). In the case of chronic blushing, the sympathetic nervous system provokes a fight or flight response, which rushes blood from the gut to skeletal muscles in preparation for a reaction (Gaines, 2012). When the SNS is overactive, it may cause the movement of blood to the skeletal muscles and skin, causing unprovoked blushing. This condition affects approximately 5-7% of the population in the United States (Gaines, 2012)

Furthermore, there are many more issues that an overactivity of the sympathetic nervous system may cause. Some of these issues include hyperhidrosis, Raynauds disease, autonomic dysreflexia, hypertension and heart arrhythmias. Hyperhidrosis is a medical condition in which a person sweats excessively and unpredictably (UCSF Medical Centre, n.d.). The causation of sweating during a sympathetic nervous system response is caused by the stimulation of the eccrine sweat glands to cool down the body;

DOWNFALL OF AN OVERACTIVE SNS however, the overactivity of the SNS may cause sweating, even if the body does not

require it, leading to this condition (UCSF Medical Centre, n.d.). Raynauds disease is an illness that is known to narrow the blood vessels, particularly those in the extremities. The constriction of the blood vessels is found during fight of flight activation to ensure that blood reaches the essential body parts (National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, 2011). This illness may be the result of repetitive actions such as playing the piano or using a drill for an expended period of time (National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, 2011). With autonomic dysreflexia, the uncontrollable activation of autonomic nerves occurs, which considers this to be a medical emergency (Marieb & Hoehn, 2013). This large sympathetic outflow causes the release of various neurotransmitters like norepinephrine, dopamine and epinephrine, which may cause vasoconstriction, piloerection and skin pallor (Campagnolo, 2011). This condition is found most commonly in quadriplegics with their spinal injury above the T5-T6 level, known as the splanchnic sympathetic outflow (Campagnolo, 2011). Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, is the term given for the force of blood pushing against the arterial walls (Marieb & Hoehn, 2013, p.539). A normal blood pressure value ranges around 120/80, but can be seen in a hypertensive client at around 140-180+ for a systolic, and 90-100+ for a diastolic. Hypertension may result from certain medications, diseases, improper diet or lack of exercise, and can be avoided with the adherence of a proper diet and exercise routine. Since the heart endures an increased rate and force during a fight or flight reaction, the pressure of the blood increases. This may result more regularly in the case of an overactive sympathetic nervous system, leading to the diagnosis of hypertension in an individual. For someone with an overactive sympathetic nervous

DOWNFALL OF AN OVERACTIVE SNS system, heart arrhythmias may occur due to the sympathetic stimulation of the sinoatrial node via sympathetic nervous system fibers from the spinal cord (Larsson, n.d.). Since a

fight or flight reaction will stimulate the action potential within these sympathetic nerves, this will cause the Sinoatrial node to increase the heart rate to compensate for the other organs requirements during this reaction (Larsson, n.d.)

There are many methods to countering or preventing an overactive sympathetic nervous system reaction, such as diet, nutritional supplements, exercise, meditation and environmental cleanup. The use of diet may aid with calming an overactive sympathetic nervous system by disallowing the consumption of certain irritants. The consumption of certain foods containing sugar, refined carbohydrates and caffeine may stimulate the sympathetic nervous system, which would further irritate an overactive system (Perkins, n.d.). By eliminating foods with some of these ingredients, the prevalence of an overactive sympathetic nervous system may not be as severe. The use of nutritional supplements may also aid in an overactive SNS. For those with anxiety related SNS disorders, the use of certain supplements like St. Johns Wort, Iron and Vitamin B6 and B12 may aid in the deficiency due to an overactive SNS (Perkins, n.d.). Exercise and meditation may also aid in alleviation of an overactive SNS by reducing stress, and therefore reducing the release of norepinephrine, and stimulating the release of serotonin and dopamine (Perkins, n.d.). A cleanup of a persons environment may greatly aid in the prevention of an overactive SNS. The environment you live in should be as free as possible from the environmental toxins that disrupt neurotransmitters and thrust one into a state of fight or flight (Perkins, n.d. para.16).


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