There’s a Scientific Explanation For Why Some People Enjoy Being Scared

posted: 10/31/16
by: Kelly McClure
Portrait anxious young man biting his nails fingers freaking out
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Portrait anxious young man biting his nails fingers freaking out

Have you ever noticed how going through a particularly scary haunted house, or waking up in the middle of the night to investigate a strange sound, can sometimes go beyond exciting and fun to feeling almost therapeutic? There's a scientific reason for why the experience of fear has an exhilarating and then calming effect on the body, and that reason could actually save your life.

Back in the days when the biggest stressor in a human's day was to avoid being eaten by large animals, the "fight or flight" instinct was brought into play on a daily basis. When a person is confronted by what they believe to be a threat to them, a hormone called epinephrine (aka, adrenaline) is released that raises our heart rates and kicks us into high gear so we can fight off what's after us, or, at the very least, flee the scene. This is crucial to survival when we're in actual danger, but when we know that we're in a place where nothing can actually harm us, we're able to just enjoy the sensation without having to, you know, actually fight or run for our lives.

"When we're in a safe place and we know it, it takes less than a second for us to remember we're not actually in danger," sociologist Margee Kerr said in a quote to The Washington Post. "Then we switch over to enjoying it. It's a kind of euphoria. That's why you see people go right from screaming to laughing."

So taking these facts into consideration, you've got a good excuse for loading up on scary movies and haunted houses ... you're just testing out your "fight or flight" to make sure it still works for when you really need it.

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[via: The Washington Post]