What causes nervous system dis-regulation? | Tricia Murray

What causes nervous system dis-regulation?

Our bodies exist in three nervous states.


The parasympathetic, sympathetic and parasympathetic withdrawal (rarely discussed).





(Zone of tolerance)



(Hyper-arousal/high alert)

Parasympathetic Withdrawal



Known as the ‘rest and digest’


Calm and relaxed

Breathing easily

Body feels relaxed

Able to communicate

Process information easily

Able to tune into environment

Feels good

Known as the ‘flight or fight’


Response to stress

Blood moves around body faster

Feels jittery

Quick reactions

Can only process information related to the issue

Unable to think rationally – physical response

Known as the ‘freeze or fawn’


Protection mechanism – too much stress, need to survive so shuts off systems

Can’t move



No motivation

Brain fog




Where we, obviously, want to be is in the CALM state.


When we’re faced with a life-threatening event (ie potential car crash/traumatic event), or a life-event we need to focus on (deadline, presentation, house move etc), being in the ALERT state serves a purpose.  We need to be able to respond to this stress


When the stress becomes too much, a protective mechanism for us, is to go into a SHUTDOWN nervous state and this provides us with survival.  This will often happen to those in abuse situations if they can’t ‘flight’ meaning they go into a freeze or fawn state as it’s safer than trying to ‘fight’.


A nervous system becomes dis-regulated when the stress has been extreme or when it’s activated too many times.  If someone has experienced trauma, the nervous state is constantly re-activated as a protective mechanism.  For others, everyday reactions to stress around us can constantly activate the nervous system.


When it’s dis-regulated it means that it can’t go back to the CALM nervous state easily – it’s either in ALERT or SHUTDOWN.


If it’s been activated as a result of trauma, then professional help is needed.


For others, our nervous systems are activated for three main reasons:


  1. Something is happening out with our belief system… some rule is broken
  2. Thoughts are going into overdrive… the inner voice
  3. Feelings are being triggered…something feels ‘unsafe’



Our work is to stop/reduce how activated our nervous system is.


We can do this by gaining insight into how we function.


The impact of understanding this is huge.


It will CHANGE everything for you as you understand why you’re constantly feeling anxious, jittery, panicked or exhausted, unmotivated, frazzled, indecisive and numb.


When we’re constantly dis-regulated due to external factors, we lose sight of what’s rational, normal, logical and it leads to many symptoms of overwhelm.

You can assess your level of overwhelm using this screening tool.

Much love, Tricia xxx