Fear has evolved to protect organisms from harm. The brain’s amygdala detects threats, while other areas provide context. While some enjoy the thrill of fear due to a sense of control, others may find it overwhelming. Disorders stemming from abnormal fear are prevalent but treatable.
Fear may be as old as life on Earth. It is a fundamental, deeply wired reaction, evolved over the history of biology, to protect organisms against perceived threat to their integrity or existence. Fear may be as simple as a cringe of an antenna in a snail that is touched, or as complex as existential anxiety in a human.
Whether we love or hate to experience fear, it’s hard to deny that we certainly revere it – devoting an entire holiday to the celebration of fear.
Thinking about the circuitry of the brain and human psychology, some of the main chemicals that contribute to the “fight or flight” response are also involved in other positive emotional states, such as happiness and excitement. So, it makes sense that the high arousal state we experience during a scare may also be experienced in a more positive light. But what makes the difference between getting a “rush” and feeling completely terrorized?
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