STRUGGLING with DEPRESSION, ANXIETY, or BIPOLARITY? LEARNING can really HELP. Start with ARTICLES above or Topics below. Ty! Bill

…that two-faced norepinephrine. final

Okay, we’re gonna’ tie a bow on our norepinephrine series by first chatting about epinephrine and the HPA axis.

Epinephrine, a hormone and neurotransmitter synthesized in the adrenal glands , is involved with our reaction to immediate stress, prompting our physiological responses to threatening or highly stimulating environmental stressors.

The HPA axis is a cortisol generating stress response system starring the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland, and the adrenals.

When released into the bloodstream by the adrenal glands, prompted by norepinephrine, epinephrine has significant influence throughout the body. It increases heart stroke volume and rate, dilates the pupils, constricts arterioles in the skin and abdomen, and dilates arterioles in the leg muscles.

Epinephrine also supports our threat reaction by elevating blood sugar levels. Anything having to do with epinephrine and its functioning is adrenergic.

Now, in so-called “healthy” individuals the noradrenergic (norepinephrine) system and the HPA axis work in harmony through, as we discussed, feedback loops, in maintaining a sense of stress-balance. When everything is operating as it should, as activity in the noradrenergic system increases, activity in the HPA axis follows suit.

But in panic and anxiety sufferers this delicate balance is interrupted by chronic and/or situational overproduction of norepinephrine, which messes up the whole works. As a result, the HPA axis becomes cut off from any and all noradrenergic activity, leading to an unmanaged increase in stress.

The term dysregulation refers to the inability of a neural system to maintain a balance of its intended neurotransmitter activity. If you haven’t caught on as yet, noradrenergic activity in panic and anxiety sufferers is theorized to be highly susceptible to dysregulation because of all of the funny business mentioned in the last paragraph.

And the success of the ever-popular selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI’s) in the treatment of panic and anxiety may well be due to normalization of a “dysregulated” noradrenergic system by the enhancement of serotonin activity. As we discussed, as serotonin levels rise, levels of norepinephrine fall.

Well, that’s going to do it for our four-part series on norepinephrine. Hopefully you’ve learned a lot. And, as I always say; when we’re learning we’re growing and becoming, and staying, well.

What will you do with your new insight?

  • BarbCat

    Thanks, Bill, for this informative series. I have bipolar mixed-states depression which presents in horrible anxiety and panic attacks with frightening psychosis when it gets bad. I’ve been hunting down this cortisol/norepinephrine animal. I’ve tried Relora, which purports to lower cortisol, but it had little if any effect. Also was on inderal – nada. SSRI’s cause immediate panic attacks and hallucinations, and this really confuses me. I’ve been told I have a weird chemistry combo. Maybe I’ll give inipramine a try once again, but the side effects are tough.

    I’ve been researching the role of copper in anxiety attacks. Copper is needed to activate the transferase enzyme that produces dopamine and then the transferase enzyme that produces norep. Sometimes there’s a glitch in the enzyme process and copper continues to cycle and overproduce DP and NE. Sometimes the process produces reduced dopamine and increased NE which causes anxiety and a stripped out no endorphans feeling. Excessive copper has been found in lab studies to be present in schizophrenia, autism and bipolar disorder in up to 90% of cases.

    Zinc and copper are in opposite ratios. It’s proposed that, just like we’re all deficient in magnesium, we’re also deficient in zinc, which causes increased copper. I don’t know if taking supplemental zinc helps, or how much to take. It can be a slow process and self medicating to correct imbalances, whether with meds or herbs or vitamins and minerals, can be tricky. Just thought I’d pass along this piece in the puzzle.

  • BarbCat

    Also wanted to say that mornings are especially hard for me, especially around 8 am. Ah ha! That’s when cortisol is at it’s height. As the day goes on I feel better, especially when the sun goes down. It’s like magic. So far, I haven’t found anything that helps the morning ick. Gabapentin helps somewhat, but it sure isn’t the answer.

  • I want to thank BarbCat for her two comments. She passes on great info, which she gleans, I’m sure, from personal “experimentation.” I’ll tell ya’, writing the articles is one thing. But what really counts here on Chipur is the valuable info passed on by readers…