Can you be SCARED to death?!

halloween-wallpaper-large006.jpgHappy Halloween Penn State! This is one of my favorite holidays, right after Christmas -- I love dressing up, giving (and getting!) candy and being scared by haunted houses, spooky tales, and anything creepy!

As someone who gets scared somewhat easily, I have said many times, "You just scared me to death!" But, is this possible? Can you actually be scared to death?

After finding an article on Yahoo! News (from Good Morning America), I learned it is actually entirely plausible to be scared to death!

Scientifically, it is identified as "stress cardiomyopathy," which is similar to a heart attack. This is also known as the 'broken-heart' syndrome', as it usually occurs after an "intense, emotional event." The symptoms are extremely similar to a heart attack such as "shortness of breath, trouble breathing and sweating," however, during stress cardiomyopathy, there is also a flush of stress hormones in your body.

When you feel scared or threatened, a surge of adrenaline rushes through you and triggers the 'fight-or-flight' response, an innate sense of protection that your body has. However, is the shock is so great, the sudden rush of adrenaline can shock your heart so extremely that it stops beating. 

Stress cardiomyopathy doesn't have to be triggered by something as scary as a killer clown with a chainsaw; Dr. Samuels, the head of the neurology department of the Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, has seen cases that care caused by something as simple as "shooting a hole in one on the golf course, bowling a perfect game, and a not guilty verdict in court."

It is somewhat rare, but if you happen to believe in ghosts and ghouls being real and haunting about, maybe stick with just the treats tonight!


When I was thinking about what could cause someone to be scared to death, the only thing I could think of was people being scared by something jumping out at them or a sudden loud noise. I wondered what else could cause someone to be scared to death. I found that earthquakes cause deaths because of fear. I came across a term called "sudden death." This is a natural death that is very unforeseen to someone who hasn't had life threatening conditions in the past. Five sudden deaths occur on a daily day in Los Angeles. However, on the day of the Northridge earthquake, 24 sudden deaths occurred. Most of the deaths had nothing to do with physical exertion. These people died because they were extremely scared of the earthquake. Very interestingly, psychologist Walter B. Cannon found that more sudden deaths occur in places where voodoo or black magic, like South America, Africa, Australia, and New Zealand. Cannon looked at healthy men who eventually died because of "a fear perpetuated by their society." He said the deaths were caused by an overactive sympathetic nervous system. Scary stuff!

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