Why people enjoy being scared - Deepstash

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Catching fear in a bottle

Why people enjoy being scared

Why people enjoy being scared

A recent study looked at why people enjoy a good fright and found that it creates a sort of euphoria that lowers stress levels.

There seems to be a sweet spot for enjoyment where the fright is not too scary nor too weak, but just enough to be enjoyable.

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Fear as a defense mechanism
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Fear protects organisms against a perceived threat to their integrity or existence. Fear can be as simple as moving away from a negative stimulus, or as complex as existential anxi...

Getting a “rush” vs. feeling terrorized

The main factor in how we experience fear has to do with the context.

When the "thinking" part of the brain gives feedback to the "emotional" brain, and we know it isn't really a threat, we can quickly shift from fear to enjoyment or excitement, such as in a haunted house during Halloween season. However, if you were walking in a dark alley at night and a stranger started following you, both your emotional and thinking areas of the brain would agree that the situation is dangerous and that it's time to escape.

The fear reaction

The fear reaction starts in the brain's amygdala region and spreads through the body to prepare the body for the best defense or flight reaction. Fear also triggers the release of stress hormones and the sympathetic nervous system.

During a dangerous situation, the brain becomes hyperalert, pupils dilate, the bronchi dilate, breathing accelerates, heart rate and blood pressure rise, blood flow and a stream of glucose to the skeletal muscles increase, and organs not vital in survival slow down, such as the gastrointestinal system.

Reasons for enjoying or hating scary movies
  • Sensation seeking individuals may enjoy scary movies because it will elevate the heart rate and make the body feel as though it needs to expend energy.
  • Highly sensitive peopl...
Feeling rewarded

According to a 2008 study, dopamine is responsible for feelings of accomplishment and rewards, but it's also been linked to averse emotions like fear and dread.

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It can bring people together
Fear, rather than scattering people screaming into the night, might actually make them huddle closer together.

We build a special closeness with those we are with when we're in an excited or scared state.

The right kind of fear

The fun of Halloween is that you can experience the thrill of fear without any real threat.

It's all about triggering the fight-or-flight response to experience the flood of adrenaline, endorphins, and dopamine, but in a completely safe space.