Science Thursday: Fear

I’m going to be honest, I’ve been done with this week since Tuesday when I was an hour late for work because of a car accident on the parkway. Bad traffic spoils my mood like nothing else. That combined from my left-over sleep deprivation from the weekend has taken away all and any desire to make quality posts. So instead of the novellas I’ve been writing for Science Thursday, I’ll be doing a much shorter piece. But don’t worry, I’ve actually planned the next two weeks so they’ll have a little more substance.

At this time of year the theme tends to be how badly people can scare each other, and if you’ve ever been scared senseless, you know that fear, for lack of a better term, hurts. Even if you immediately know that you’re in no danger, the desire to cry and/or throw up and/or wet yourself is still there (hopefully not all at once). What makes this happen? What actually goes on in your body when someone scares you?

When frightened, you start to hyperventilate, meaning that your body is expelling carbon dioxide faster than it’s taking it in, which in turn may raise the pH of your blood. If your blood’s pH is raised to high, you may feel dizzy, tingling in your hands and feet, weakness, or you may just outright faint. In extreme cases, raised pH of your blood can lead to seizures.

Fear also causes your blood vessels to either constrict or dilate. Using the convenient diagram below:

Look at dem veins

the veins that look like little small tree branches will constrict, accounting for the the weak or tingly feeling, where the thicker, limb-like vessels will dilate, lowering your blood pressure.

High blood sugar is another side-effect of fear, which is why sometimes after you’ve been frightened you really want a cheeseburger and fries. Raised blood sugar is also why people may feel like their heart has skipped a beat or their mouth has turned to cotton.

Something else that rises when your afraid is your blood calcium levels (hypercalcemia). Hypercalcemia has a multitude of symptoms, such as nausea (the scared spew), frequent urination (the panicky pee), and confusion (afraid and addled). In addition, your white blood cell count increases.

Your body responds this way to give you an extra oomph of protection against whatever is scaring you. However, too much oomph is bad for you. If you’re the kind of person who loves a good scare, over time you can develop peptic ulcer disease or even erectile dysfunction (if, ya know, if you have an erectile that can dysfunction).

If you’re the kind of person who loves to give a good scare, be mindful. Your goal is to have fun, not make someone pass out. (And if you’re the kind of lowlife jackface who makes fun of or downplays an involuntary response to fear, you’re wrong, you can probably be arrested for assault, and I hope Pennywise comes for you)

Happy Halloween 🙂


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