What is the Sympathetic Nervous System?

Sympathetic Nervous System

In a prior article, we looked at the autonomic nervous system (ANS). In contrast to the somatic nervous system, the ANS is the part of the nervous system that you do not need to consciously control. It operates without your active thought, although you can learn to modify its responses to certain stimuli via different forms of therapy, including neurofeedback and biofeedback. One part of the ANS is the sympathetic nervous system (SNS). This article looks more in-depth at the function of the SNS.

What Does the SNS Do?

One of the most important functions of the SNS is to activate the body’s “fight or flight” response to stress or danger. In the face of imminent threat, the SNS prepares the body for action by increasing the heart rate, decreasing the blood going to the digestive system, and promoting a heightened awareness of the senses. When extreme danger is actually present, the SNS can make the difference between life and death by helping us improve our reaction time and activating the body for immediate exertion.

But what if the danger is perceived, but not imminent? What if the threat comes from a form of stimuli that acts as a trigger from past traumatic events, or from a confrontational situation that is unlikely to require us to physically “fight” or “flee”? In this case, our SNS may be contributing to chronic stress that leads to declining health and mental wellness.

Understanding the SNS and Its Role In Your Life

You cannot live successfully without a fully functioning SNS, even if its reaction to stressors makes you want to “disconnect” it from the rest of your body. Your digestive system and urinary system would not work properly if you had no SNS. Sexual function relies upon the interaction of the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) and the SNS together. The heart, lungs, and eyes all operate through the interaction of the PNS and the SNS.

Therefore, if an overactive “fight or flight” response is creating difficulties in your life, you can recover your wellness with the help of the Brain Health Clinic. With traditional psychotherapy, neurofeedback diagnostics and biofeedback techniques, we can determine whether or not you are dealing with an SNS that is overly sensitive to specific stimuli. Then, our trained and experienced therapists can help you respond appropriately to the triggers that activate your SNS when you want to stay calm and collected.

Speaking of “calm,” if the SNS is responsible for “fight or flight,” the PNS is in charge of “rest and digest.” If resting is the one thing you feel you need most, how can the Brain Health Clinic help you? We will examine these questions in future articles, including “What is the Parasympathetic Nervous System” and “Using Biofeedback with the PNS.”

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