October 8, 2021 – Fear is a perfectly normal reaction, especially when watching horror movies or walking down an alley alone in the dark. There is a reason why you can feel fear as if it were physical.
Genetically, our DNA is wired in such a way that some people like things that scream “Boo!” At night while others hate it, or why some people crave horror movies while others recoil at just thinking.
If you cringe at signs of imaginative horror, don’t worry: Your natural reaction has a reason behind it.
“Epinephrine, also known as adrenaline, is released into the blood when someone watches a scary movie,” says Shana Weibel, MD, a psychiatrist at Lindner Hope Center near Cincinnati, Ohio. “It makes the sympathetic nervous system take over and creates a sense of fight or flight, preparing the body to respond to the perceived threat.”
Horror movies can make you breathe excessively and cause your heart rate to increase rapidly, giving your legs more energy to run faster in an actual fight-or-flight situation, says Weibel, who is also an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Cincinnati.
The main reason why you might get a higher sudden response than others is because of your oxytocin levelAnd A hormone and a neurotransmitter secreted by the hypothalamus in the brain to calm you down. A higher level of oxytocin means you will be less afraid, while a lower level means you will be more easily afraid.
But why do some people have lower levels than others?
“There is a huge variability in individuals about how sensitive their oxytocin receptors are, which means that a certain level of oxytocin can have a large or small effect,” says Joe Cohen, founder and CEO of SelfDecode, a health reporting service in Miami.
The gene that contains the oxytocin receptor is OXTR, and the less sensitive it is, the more likely you are to have anxiety, panic attacks, and fear.
“There is a part of this gene that makes some people less anxious, less fearful, and have a lower startle response,” Cohen says. “This explains why some people are stunned by small things like the sound of closing the door.”
Aside from oxytocin, there are other hormones in the body that are responsible for the hair that stands on your arms or the back of your neck when you feel frightened. Adrenaline, norepinephrine, and cortisol are the three main stress hormones that work in tandem with oxytocin. “These hormones can be horrific in certain situations,” Cohen says.
Basically, there has to be a balance at all times.
“These hormones put your body into a fight-or-flight response,” he says. “It activates your nervous system and stimulates you all, like in an adrenaline rush, which happens when you’re scared or exercising.”
“There are some people who have genes that raise their cortisol level, or once it’s high it doesn’t go down easily. As a result, they don’t know how to get it back to normal after a stressful situation,” Cohen explains.
But he says oxytocin, serotonin, GABA and BDNF — a hormone released from your brain when you exercise that aids memory — help reduce cortisol.
Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is a neurochemical that is secreted mainly in the brain. “It’s a chemical that the brain uses to communicate between neurons,” Cohen says. “It tells the brain to calm down and tells the neurons to stop firing.”
Studies show that people with GABA receptors have different levels of anxiety, fear, and stress. If your body does not produce enough GABA, you will have a higher level of fear.
The role of cannabis in fear
Also, the natural way your body achieves a balance is by producing natural cannabinoids, which help turn off our stress response.
An enzyme called FAAH helps break down these drugs. The lower your FAAH level, the more likely you are to calm down quickly after being surprised. Those of us with higher levels tend to remain tense after fear.
Some people smoke plant-based cannabis (marijuana or cannabis) because of its sedative effect. Now the science behind it shows why fate makes you calmer.
The CBD chemical in marijuana activates receptors in your body that boost serotonin production. Rebecca Abraham, a certified cannabis nurse and founder of Acute on Chronic LLC in Illinois, says this booster relieves stress, making you happier and less afraid.
“Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like Zoloft increase serotonin reuptake and are used to treat people with anxiety disorders,” she says.
But just because cannabis has been shown to help with anxiety and fear doesn’t mean it has no side effects.
Abraham says that a larger dose of cannabis will activate the fight-or-flight response in the sympathetic nervous system, making you feel unnecessarily afraid.
Fear is also a genetic trait, which means that it can be passed from father to child. Even twins who grew up far apart tend to have the same phobias because they share the same DNA that is responsible for the fears they feel.
Eddie Moser, a licensed social worker and journalist in Pennsylvania, says she inherited certain fears from her father.
My father grew up in a low-income family and was worried about getting enough. As a result, he worked long hours to support us.” “I inherited this fear and became a workaholic and always took several jobs at once to ensure my financial needs were met.”
Although medications can deal with the fear, different people have different ways of dealing with that fear.
Moser says she is talking to family and friends who are providing support. She also shares positive affirmation and what she calls “Godversations” as a way to unite herself.
Feibel suggests that people can use therapy to overcome their fears.
She says, “One of the best types of therapy is exposure therapy. It can help a person get used to something they fear little by little, thereby reducing anxiety each time.”