Fear can be good and bad. It can persuade you away from a dangerous situation or help you flee when you need to. But it can also lead to chronic stress with serious consequences.
So, as we get into the spookiest season of the year, let’s take a look at how fear can impact you.
Fear can be fun. A scary movie or a haunted house can offer some fleeting shock and exhilaration that will appear almost as fast as it leaves. So if you’ve got some scary Halloween plans lined up, they shouldn’t be much of a concern.
However, everybody is different.
If you think scary movies or a haunted house may trigger some more serious anxiety, activate PTSD, or if you have a heart condition that may be exacerbated by a sudden and dramatic increase in heart rate or blood pressure, you might want to avoid them.
There are physiological results, whether you’re having fun with fear or going through a terrifying trauma. The brain-heart connection starts in the amygdala, near the base of the brain. It is the fear center that reminds us to stay safe when something threatening happens.
It tells you, for example, not to get too close to the edge of the observation deck. The sudden stress also causes the body to release extra hormones, like cortisol and adrenaline, to boost alertness and energy – the fight or flight response.
The trouble arises when the fear doesn’t go away once the danger is gone.
If you’re at home trying to fall asleep, out with friends, or doing another safe activity, it can impact function and your quality of life.
Phobias, panic attacks, PTSD, and other uncontrolled forms can disrupt lives, require psychological help, and have medical consequences.
When you stay in stress mode, your heart rate and blood pressure go up; there are greater levels of inflammation. These problems can lead to atrial fibrillation or arrhythmias.
Chronic stress can also lead to unhealthier diets, less exercise, less social interaction, and poor sleep. All of which can contribute to inflammation and health problems.
As Halloween comes up, you are the judge of what you can handle. Do your best to enjoy the season and have some good fun, but know if and when something may push you over the edge.