anger and adrenaline


How does anger work?

Where does my anger come from?
What comes first?
What is the sequence of events?

First there is danger.

Any kind of danger in my well controlled world.
Anything that breaks my conventional system of how things should be.
Anything threatening my ‘how-it-should-be’ world is seen as a danger.
A danger from the past, sometimes lurking today or in the future, might also provoke the same sequence of events.

Next there is adrenaline.

Danger causes my stress levels to rise. Heart beat goes faster.

An experiment

I did an experiment today. I wanted to know whether adrenaline causes anger. I have asthma medication containing beta-agonists. Adrenaline, also known as epinephrine, is a member of this family of beta-agonists. In fact, adrenaline has been used even up till today as an asthma medicine. I took a triple dose. In the past, when things went bad inside my lungs, my physician sometimes asked me to raise the dose to this level. My body can stand this and the danger is nil. Don’t do it yourself!

This thing works immediately.
Feeling hyper. Nervous. Makes it a bit difficult to even write by hand. There is a light tremor.
I feel my heartbeat. It’s not high, it’s just higher than usual.
I feel stress. A kind of worried feeling without any imminent danger. Some feeling that often accompanies anxiety.
But there is no anxiety, there is no fear.
I’m ready for fear. But there is no fear, and there is no anger.
I can concentrate, but my senses get more attention as usual.
So I could be easily distracted. I’m skittish like a deer.
It feels also a bit like ADHD, I suppose. I got never diagnosed, in fact it didn’t exist when I was 10 y.o. But I must sometimes have qualified for the term hyperkinetic in those days. And today hyperkinetic disorder and ADHD are usually mentioned together.
I also took asthma medicine in those days. I see a link.
But I don’t see anger. I don’t see fear.
I have had those days when I drank much more coffee than I should have, and I feel very much like then.
I also know people who treat their symptoms of asthma with coffee.

The experiment ends. One hour later, the increased edginess wears off. I wrote the text between  [begin, end] while under the influence.

Biology tells me that adrenaline prepares us for a fight or flight. A natural hormone to prepare us for fast action. But my experiment shows that the hormone itself does not cause fear or anger. If you look up epinephrine in wikipedia, the other name of adrenaline, you will find study [25] as a reference where the real article claims: “NF-kappaB p50-deficient mice show reduced anxiety-like behaviors in tests of exploratory drive and anxiety” Which is of course not the proof of the opposite, and of course, nobody did ask the mice what they felt.

And now, what is next?

Adrenaline prepares the deer for a flight. Adrenaline prepares the bull for a fight. Something must happen to choose one or the other. Stags do fight. Sometimes they do lethally hurt their predator.

Is a hunting predator angry? No, it is not. It uses the surge of adrenaline to think and act faster.

Is a fleeing deer angry? Certainly not. It uses the surge of adrenaline to find its way faster, and to possibly outrun the predator.

Confrontation, , seems to be necessary for anger.

Confrontation between

an offender: ‘you have something that I want/take’


a defender: ‘you are not better than I am’ and ‘I am entitled to my possession’ and ‘I will defend it’

Is this correct?

If there is no confrontation and no one to blame, not even nature or a situation, then there is no anger.

… to be continued

Pictures by bvdb (whoisbert) November 2013 – @home – Canon Ixus HS230 – IMG 4863


11 thoughts on “anger and adrenaline

  1. Interesting experiment and post, Bert!! I know I am trigger happy when high on caffeine. Lest you take me literally, I don’t own a gun– just an expression. Also quick to draw, when manic which is altered brain chemistry, too. And anxiety creates a volatile environment in the emotional area of the brain. Look forward to the part 2. Meditation, Qi Gong calm the brain down. It is all chemistry and brain waves pattersn Beta waves are in the vigilant, alert state. Alpha waves are in the unity consciousness state which is much slower to anger if at all even possible. Which comes first the chemistry or the brain wave activity???

  2. Adrenaline is nature’s way of preparing the body for fight or flight when the mind perceives indications of situations calling for either. I feel that you know this but have said it just in case.

    • sharpens the senses, fixes memory, slows down relative time, .. but makes us very edgy too. And then we can fight or flight, or let the adrenaline go away by itself …

  3. I tend to agree! But do you think there can be anger in relation an event that has been trigger by chance / randomly – and you are aware of its random nature? It would not make sense to be angry about chance. Or do we tend to attribute that random to event to a person, an organization,…, just to have a target for anger?

    • Many people are moderately angry for not winning the lottery. Then they will talk about fraud to have someone to blame. I can imagine the frustration of quantum researchers in the twenties and thirties of the 20th century. Whether frustration becomes anger depends on many things. And you can always blame god for playing dice … and get angry with her/him …

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