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nebule's avatar

What is the point of severe shaking when frightened or in shock?

Asked by nebule (16379 points ) March 29th, 2010

Granted that the answer to this question will probably rest on whether you believe in evolutionary theory…but assuming that you do….

Something really awful happened to me earlier this evening. I returned home to find my ex-partner (of 5 years ago not Theo’s father!) waiting for me on my doorstep asking to come in. He is an alcoholic, was abusive emotionally and physically. He looked awful, pretty battered; he had blood down his nose, glasses were torn apart, he was drunk and slurring his words.

I haven’t seen him for years, this was completely out of the blue. I was terrified. I managed to get rid of him anyway in the process of getting verbal abuse and could feel myself beginning to shake, voice disappearing and legs crumbling beneath me. When I got me and my son into the house my whole body was convulsing and I struggled to stand up, I tripped over a few things and struggled to breathe. Was OK though after a while.

I want to know what the purpose of this physical response to the situation is? I don’t see how it can be productive at all because I felt physically ill and couldn’t have defended myself if I’d have tried… Was just lucky he walked away really. But my question is two fold really because…. I also have IBS and suffer when stressed…and of course my tummy is aching now four hours after the event, I feel sick…but lower down I’m cramping…and I’m wondering why this happens? How can this benefit me? What should I be learning from my body on this one?

Thanks all xxxx

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9 Answers

Kraigmo's avatar

That reaction is an adrenaline rush. Healthy adrenaline rushes are caused by exercise or good news. Negative adrenaline rushes are caused by situations you were just in. The physiological purpose is so you’d be able to run or fight if necessary, without as much pain.

However, you didn’t end up running or fighting and so you didn’t get your ‘release’ from that. You instead overdosed on adrenaline and felt sick.

I’m proud of you for getting rid of that needy scum, though.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

I’m glad you’re ok.
I have only had that happen once and it was when I was caught in rough weather while alone on my boat.My knees were knocking together and it was the weirdest thing to see and feel.I just think of it as a huge adrenaline rush to maybe help with reaction times…I’m not sure what peeing your pants is for ;)

Lightlyseared's avatar

There is no point to the shaking as such, it is a by product of the release of adrenalin. The good old “fight or flight” response dumps it into your body to prepare you to fight or errr.. runaway. It makes your tummy feel funny because it effects the smooth muscle of your bowel and can make you go to the toilet (hence a well known phrase I’m sure you’re familiar with).

susanc's avatar

@lucillelucillelucille To empty your bladder so you aren’t encumbered in battle or running away as fast as you can.

nebule's avatar

thank you guys x

yes, it all seems a bit messed up though doesn’t it…I mean… it’s not like there are toilets around in case of fight or flight… or that you would necessarily do it in your pants :-) ewww or maybe that’ why I have IBS… resisting natural responses perhaps…. I don’t know… but evolution seems to need to catch up if you ask me…. I am liking the idea though that the adrenalin is to stop you feeling pain…that sure fits! But the shaking… we could really do with getting a hold on that…

Mariah's avatar

Eek, that’s scary. Sorry that happened to you, and that the tummy’s acting up now. I have ulcerative colitis that gets triggered by stress, so I know how un-fun that is. Bleh.

Like everyone has said, it’s my understanding that the rush of adrenaline is supposed to help with fight or flight. But I have to agree that that nervous, shaky feeling doesn’t feel at all conducive to running or fighting. I tend to feel weaker than usual when that happens, not just afterwards but during the onset. Although maybe I’d be surprised if I actually tried running when it happened.

nebule's avatar

hee hee…yes good point @Mariah not that I’m willing anything else remotely dramatic to happen this week…. but yes…try running…. good idea!! Let’s compare notes!!

Neizvestnaya's avatar

Keeps your muscles from stiffening, warms you up when you get that rush of adrenaline which evolution gives you to prepare for any pain and exhaustion due to flight or fight.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

@susanc -Makes perfect sense!birds do that

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