Chills, Thrills, and Fear: The Science Behind the Joy of Being Scared

Courtesy+of+www.sites.psu.edu

Courtesy of www.sites.psu.edu

When we get scared our bodies activate the fight-or-flight, in response our heart rates increase, we breathe faster, our muscles tense, and our attention focuses for quick and effective responses to threats, which helps us prepare to run away or put up a fight, reported mnn.com

Our brains are flooded with endorphins, dopamine, serotonin and adrenaline and that feels really, really good. It gets even better when we survive the scary situation, and we know we will survive watching a scary movie or walking through a haunted house. Mnn.com added, that this gives us an extraordinary feeling of confidence for facing our fears, even though we know deep down that there was nothing real to be afraid of.

Haunted houses and scary movies are an easy way to immerse ourselves in fear without actually being afraid, reported LiveScience.com. Because we know that the haunted house is not populated with zombies when one jumps out at us, we scream, but then laugh with equal exuberance. Our brains are floating in feel-good chemicals and exaggerated feelings of confidence.

Young children may overestimate the risk of harm and experience true ‘fear.’ When that happens you see the child cling to a parent and cry, convinced there’s a very real chance of harm. On the other hand, adults may well scream but quickly follow it with a laugh since they readily recognize there’s no chance for real harm, according   to www.theatlantic.com.

According to LiveScience.com, as we get older, we can place these “safe fear” events in the appropriate context. We have been through them before and we know that nothing bad is going to come of it, so we’re okay with a good scare. That’s exactly why little kids have such a hard time with fear. They don’t know that the monster in the movie isn’t really going to be waiting for them around the next dark corner. Therefore, the older and more mature you are, the less likely you are to be frightened by silly scares.

If the brain knows there is no risk of really being harmed, it experiences this adrenaline rush as enjoyable. This phenomenon also explains why people can enjoy skydiving, bungee jumping and extreme sports, according mnn.com.

Those engaging in high-risk activities will tell you that the risk is lowered, reported www.theatlantic.com. The key structure in the brain responsible for this effect is likely the amygdala, which is key to forming and storing memories linked with emotions.

“I like getting scared because sometimes my reaction is really funny and I like seeing other people’s reactions when they get scared because it’s hilarious,” said 8 grade BYMS student, Jizelle Fakhouri.