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The Science of Fear

October 09, 2017

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Halloween is right around the corner, and what could be more appropriate in this spooky season than the study of fear itself? Fear is a natural human response to stimuli and you can bet that there's quite a bit of science around it. Maybe figuring out how fear works will help you conquer some of the things that scare you! 

What is Fear?

  • Fear is the brain's response to stimuli that scares you.
  • What is scary differs from person to person - for you it might be a spider, whereas for someone else it might be a ghost story being read aloud.
  • Once your brain registers that stimuli, it sets off a chain reaction that travels all through your body.
  • When you are afraid, chemicals are released from your brain that cause your heart to race and your muscles to feel energized.
  • There is a reason behind this: your brain and body are preparing to react to what you are scared of, and are essentially planning whether or not you should use your adrenaline-fueled strength to run from the object of your fear, or whether you should used that strength to fight back. 

She might not be scared of spiders but many people are!She might not be scared of spiders but many people are!Courtesy of minnpost.com

Shared Fear

  • Oh yes, there's more to learn about fear!
  • On top of the endorphins that are released when you are afraid, dopamines and a hormone called oxytocin are also released.
  • Oxytocin is also released when we kiss or hug a loved one; it is the hormone that aids us in bonding with one another.
  • Therefore, if you get scared with a friend (hopefully in a situation that is not actually dangerous, like at a haunted house), you and your friend are likely to feel closer than you were previously.
  • It can actually be fun to get scared with someone else!
  • Grab a friend or a family member and get yourself to an amusement park. Take a ride on that roller coaster together - it'll be a bonding experience. 

This haunted house in Ohio is one of the most haunted in America!This haunted house in Ohio is one of the most haunted in America!Courtesy of Seph Lawless

Common Fears

  • There are some fears, or phobias, that are super common.
  • Some of these are arachnaphobia (fear of spiders), acrophobia (fear of heights), and trypanophobia (fear of injections).
  • Keep in mind that while you might be scared of something, your fear may not be quite serious enough to warrant the label of phobia.
  • A phobia is quite an extreme fear, and can even cause anxiety attacks.
  • If you have a serious phobia of something, you should talk to a parent, teacher, or adult you trust about it; there are ways for you to get help to overcome your fear. 

Fear of needles is a very common phobia.Fear of needles is a very common phobia.Courtesy of nocamels.com

It is absolutely normal, and often quite beneficial, to feel fear. If humans didn't feel fear, we could potentially find ourselves in dangerous or harmful situations and have no idea how to react to them. And it's okay to give yourself or your friends a little scare sometimes, just make sure you don't scare them too badly! Boo!

Have Your Say!

What are you afraid of? Comment below, maybe some of our Kidzworld readers share your fear!