Why do we sweat when scared?« Back to Questions List

Have you noticed that we sweat or want to urinate much frequently when we are scared. Do you know that all these tasks are being triggered automatically?


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Our brain is the central processing unit that decides all our actions. There are lots of areas in the brain which work in coordination with all parts of our body. There are billions of nerve cells (neurons) which connects the different regions of brain with different parts of the body. The function of neurons is to keep transferring information from different parts of the body to the brain and also carry the response to the part needing action. 


The central nervous system (CNS) is the part of the nervous system consisting of the brain and spinal cord. The system of nerves consisting outside of the brain and spinal cord is the peripheral nervous system (PNS) which connects the CNS to the limbs and organs. This PNS is further classified as somatic nervous system and autonomic nervous system. The somatic nervous system is associated with voluntary control of body movements and the autonomic nervous system operates below the level of consciousness.


There are two kinds of communication – the one leading to thought and action and the other is responsible for what is known as autonomic response. Autonomic response refers to the state in which we do an action and before we realize what we have done, we are done with our actions. Response out of fear in dangerous situations is a good example of autonomic response. Imagine yourself walking to school and all of a sudden a lion is approaching you. Your autonomic nervous system starts to work immediately.


The autonomic nervous system works without the person’s knowledge making him run for life or attack with a weapon or call for help during emergency situations. The body uses more energy as blood pressure increases and the heart beats faster. Activities like digestion are completely put to rest.


ANS regulates the functions of the internal organs like heart, stomach, intestines and in turn regulating the important functions like rate of breathing, blood pressure, body temperature, production of body fluids like sweat, saliva and tears, urination, defecation and many other processes. No wonder we sweat or want to urinate much frequently when we are scared. All these tasks are being triggered automatically by the autonomic nervous system. When there is an emergency, it triggers a ‘fight or flight’ response and during non emergencies, it allows the body to rest and digest. 


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