Study: The science behind being scared sh*tless

Study finds being scared in a "safe space" creates euphoric feeling

By Angela Garrity, Guest blogger

Unsure of what to get that special person, friend or family member this Halloween? How about the gift of being scared shitless? It truly is the gift that keeps on giving and experts say that it can actually bring people closer together. 

A girl pictured using a gray Death Wish Coffee blanket and watching a scary movie in the dark

A recently published study found that being afraid in a safe space creates a feeling of euphoria. This Voluntary Arousing Negative Experiences (VANE) is precisely why people willingly subject themselves (or their innocent victims) to a good case of the frights, as recently reported by Big Think.

There truly is a science behind being scared.

Sociologist Margee Kerr is a fear specialist and explained in this Washington Post article about how experiencing fear in safe place such as visiting a haunted house attraction, watching a scary movie or just sneaking up and yelling “Boo!” with close friends or family members is all done all in the name of fun.

"When we’re in a safe place, we can interpret that threat response as we do any high arousal response like joy or happiness. The response is triggered by anything unpredictable or startling," Kerr said in the Post interview. "But 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. 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."

 

Fear creates distraction, which can be a good thing when we spend so much of our lives worrying about life’s little nuances in the first place. Adulting is hard and we’d rather not have to subject ourselves to the day to day tasks that accompany it.  

Being scared with people we care about, after the initial adrenaline rush of “fight” or “flight” has left us, can be an incredible experience that often leaves us feeling satisfied, reassured and more confident to confront whatever situations life throws at us.

Related: Spooky Science: The Science of Witches

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