What ACTUALLY Happens When You Get Scared?

Whatever it is that scares you, fear acts as a stimulus that triggers a signal in your brain. We feel fear because we see or hear something that makes us anticipate harm.

The signal travels to the amygdala- a region near the base of the brain.

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The amygdala fires a brain chemical called glutamate out into two other regions of the brain. The first region makes us freeze or involuntarily jump. These reactions are so automatic because the signal is sent deep into the base of the brain to an area that we have little control over.

The second signal is sent to the hypothalamus, which is a section of the brain that also links to the nervous system. The signal then triggers our autonomic nervous system- the system responsible for the fight or flight instinct- when our bodies go into the superman mode, or in my case Blackie Chan, Wah Yaaaaah!

It elevates out heart rate and blood pressure and pumps adrenaline throughout our body. That’s the rush you feel when you are scared!

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We actually experience fear in three stages:

Stage 1: Freeze: This is the evolutionary response designed to keep us hidden from the potenial predators we sense near us, kinda like walkin home late at night and you hear noise in the bushes. First instinct is ‘Woah, what was that”.

Stage 2: Run Away: If we’ve already been spotted by an animal in the bushes like a coyote, and all that’s goin through the coyotes mind when it sees you is “Dinner”, the adrenaline coursing through our bodies helps us run away quickly. (Running away Mommy, mommy help!)

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Stage 3: Fight: If running away is no longer an option, that same adrenaline helps us fight off- or at least try to fight off- whatever threat we’re facing. So either the coyote ate you, or you ate the coyote…. That came out wrong…

Fear is not easily controlled. If you get scared, there’s not much you can do. Your fears are so deep routed in you! However there is one thing to note, having little control over whether you get scared or not, is different than actually living in fear.

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