Tachypsychia [tak-ee-sahy-kee-uh] is a neurological condition that alters the perception of time, usually induced by physical exertion, drug use, or a traumatic event. It is sometimes referred to by martial arts instructors and self defense experts as an ‘adrenaline dump.’

For someone affected by tachypsychia events appear to slow down and objects appear as moving in a speeding blur. It is believed that tachypsychia is induced by a combination of high levels of dopamine and norepinephrine, usually during periods of great physical stress and/or in violent confrontation. Tachypsychia is related to the ‘fight or flight’ response of the body to events considered life threatening.

Upon being stimulated by fear or anger, the adrenal medulla may automatically produce the hormone epinephrine (adrenaline). This can have various effects on various bodily systems, including increasing the heart rate up to 200 – 300 beats per minute (a pulse above 250 bpm can cause fainting). Other symptoms include: Dilation of the bronchial passages, permitting higher absorption of oxygen; Dilated pupils to allow more light to enter, and visual exclusion—tunnel vision—occurs, allowing greater focus but resulting in the loss of peripheral vision; and Release of glucose into the bloodstream, generating extra energy by raising the blood sugar level. It is also possible to experience auditory exclusion or sensitivity, and it is common for individuals to experience an increased pain tolerance, loss of color vision, short term memory loss, decreased fine motor skills, decreased communication skills, or decreased coordination.

The most common experience during tachypsychia is the feeling that time has either increased or slowed down, brought on by the increased brain activity cause by epinephrine, or the severe decrease in brain activity caused by the ‘catecholamine washout’ that occurs after the event. It is common for an individual experiencing tachypsychia to have serious misinterpretations of their surroundings during the events, through a combination of their altered perception of time, as well as transient partial color blindness and tunnel vision.

After the irregularly high levels of adrenaline consumed during sympathetic nervous system activation, an individual may display signs and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, and it is common for the person to display extreme emotional lability [volatility] and fatigue, regardless of their actual physical exertion. However, it is possible to manage the ‘adrenaline dump’ still occurring after the event, and it is common for soldiers and martial artists to use tachypsychia in order to increase their performance during stressful situations.

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