The Three Major Hormones That Cause Stress


Your boss wants to see you in his office. Your daughter looks like she’s getting sick. You just realized that your car is overdue for an oil change. All these things are stressful and happen every day. Our daily stresses cause a number of changes in our bodies, including an increase in certain hormones. Adrenaline, cortisol, and norepinephrine are the three major hormones that are behind stress – here’s what you need to know.


Once that dog barks at you, you start to sweat and that little twinge of nervousness is caused by adrenaline. This hormone increases your heart rate and raises your blood pressure while also giving you that surge of energy you hear about when a single human being lifts a car off an injured person.The Hormone Health Network notes that, “The adrenal glands, located at the top of each kidney, produce hormones that help the body control blood sugar, burn protein and fat, react to stressors like a major illness or injury, and regulate blood pressure.” Adrenaline is a quick-release hormone produced in response to stressors, triggering the body’s fight-or-flight response. Your ability to feel pain is also decreased because of adrenaline, giving you that extra ability to make it to safety even if you’re injured.


Cortisol is one of the most important facts in stress creation or stress reduction. The Mayo Clinic defines it as “the primary stress hormone [that] increases sugars (glucose) in the bloodstream, enhances your brain’s use of glucose and increases the availability of substances that repair tissues. Cortisol also curbs functions that would be nonessential or detrimental in a fight-or-flight situation. It alters immune system responses and suppresses the digestive system, the reproductive system and growth processes. This complex natural alarm system also communicates with regions of your brain that control mood, motivation and fear.” So if you’re wondering why you’re suddenly so afraid and you’ve got a chill running down your spine from the door opening behind you in a dark house, blame cortisol. 


This is the (hardly pronounceable) hormone that controls your attention, alertness and memory. If you’ve suddenly experienced a shock and realize later that you can’t remember parts of the event, norepinephrine is probably the cause. Recent research in the field of depression has found that norepinephrine can help to reduce stress and anxiety. According to the American Psychological Association, “Norepinephrine is particularly interesting to researchers because 50 percent of the brain’s supply is produced in the locus coeruleus, a brain area that connects most of the brain regions involved in emotional and stress responses. The chemical is thought to play a major role in modulating the action of other, more prevalent neurotransmitters that play a direct role in the stress response.”


So how do you cope with stress and learn how to stay calm in the face of life’s daily – expected and unexpected – adventures? It’s really all about balance. Maintaining a healthy diet, getting regular exercise and plenty of sleep, and keeping up with relationships are all major factors in helping you to not only de-stress, but also to curb stress before it happens. If it becomes too much to handle, seek professional help from a therapist or other licensed healthcare provider.