Practice in Clinical & Health Psychology
Autonomic Dysregulation


What is Autonomic Dysregulation?

The autonomic nervous system controls most of the involuntary reflexive activities of the human body. The system is constantly working to regulate the glands and many of the muscles of the body through the release or uptake of the neurotransmitters acetylcholine and norepinephrine. The autonomic nervous system is made up of two primary parts: the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems. The sympathetic nervous system prepares the body for emergencies or times of stress and is responsible for the body's "fight or flight" response when faced with a dangerous situation. During this response, the heart rate and blood pressure increase, the pupils of the eye dilate, and the digestive system slows down. The parasympathetic system helps the body's functions return to normal after they have been stimulated by the sympathetic nervous system and also has some responsibility for keeping the body's immune system properly functioning.

Autonomic dysregulation involves malfunctioning of the autonomic nervous system, the portion of the nervous system that conveys impulses between the blood vessels, heart, and all the organs in the chest, abdomen, and pelvis and the brain (mainly the medulla, pons and hypothalamus).