Horror movies like Saw and The Conjuring have made us grip our seats in terror for years – and many of us keep coming back for more. The unexpected thrill of terror is eluding to many, but real-life horror takes on a whole different meaning. Scary situations can leave us feeling panicked and flushed, and we may experience a shortness of breath, pain or tightness in the chest, and even choking sensations. How does fear happen within the body?

CNN notes that when we are alarmed, our body’s survival mode kicks in and that’s when we go into “fight or flight” response. This adaptation has helped us survive for hundreds of years, as we’ve gone through great lengths to escape from dangerous animals, natural disasters, and more. Some of our fears, however, are learned. Take, for example, spiders, snakes, and darkness. When we are born, we aren’t naturally afraid of these things. It’s the cues that we take from our environments and caregivers to teach us that we should be afraid.

When we meet something we are afraid of, the brain’s amygdala takes in the sensations present – what we see, smell, hear, etc., and the brain signals to the rest of the body that there is something we should be fearful of. The Scientific American notes that, for example, if you were in a dark alley and something jumped out at you, your brain’s amygdala would be responsible for your decision to run. Our body then reacts by using adrenaline to produce some of the symptoms of fear expressed earlier.

Much of the fear tactics we use come from our ancestors, and it has helped them survive. Why, then, do people purposefully get enjoyment out of horror movies if the symptoms of fear are based on survival? Live Science argues that people enjoy the aftermath of fear – it’s a rush that is euphoric, as the brain releases neurotransmitters and hormones that mediate and cause the body to relax afterwards, this can give the person a great sense of relief.

If you are experiencing excessive paranoia or fear and it’s significantly impacting your day-to-day life, you may have a paranoia/anxiety-related disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Make sure you seek help from a licensed doctor to receive an official diagnosis so that you can seek treatment if these problems are greatly impacting your life.

New Vista Behavioral Health is home to several world-renowned, California state-licensed mental health and substance abuse recovery treatment programs. If you are experiencing severe anxiety, depression, PTSD, paranoia or more, call us today at 888-316-3665 for a consultation.


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