Is It Possible To Be Scared To Death? The Explanation Behind This Unfortunate Phenomenon

Lifestyle & Health

Think of a situation when you were extremely scared or experienced other intense emotions. Do you remember feeling like your heart skipped a beat? If you felt alright afterwards, good for you! Because it's possible for the heart to actually stop beating when you feel strongly emotional.

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Dying as a result of being extremely frightened may sound like something you'd only see in the movies. The phrase "scare someone to death" is often used figuratively, but there are hundreds of recorded cases in which people died after being scared. As an example, Scientific American cites a case of 79-year-old woman who died of a heart attack when she found a bank robber hiding in her home.

What happens in our bodies when we are overwhelmed with emotions? The sympathetic nervous system activates the release of adrenaline and other hormones to prepare the body for action. When your heart is affected by the rush of adrenaline, calcium channels in your heart open, the organ is flooded with calcium and starts to contract forcefully. The heart beats faster and may be unable to slow down, which can lead to dangerous arrhythmias. Arrhythmia can render the heart unable to pump blood throughout the body and is often fatal if not treated immediately.

Some people develop stress-induced cardiomyopathy after a stressful and upsetting event. Stress-induced cardiomyopathy is commonly called "broken heart syndrome," as it is often seen in people who have just lost a loved one, went through a painful divorce or breakup, or had a similar heartbreaking situation.

Positive emotions can also put too much stress on your heart. It's possible to suffer from heart damage after winning a lottery or watching your favorite team win the World Cup. There are even some cases when people died during sexual intercourse.

What's the takeaway? Think twice if you want to pull a scary prank on someone. Even people with healthy hearts may suffer heart damage as a result of stress, even if the threat wasn't real.

Source: LiveScience, ABC News, Scientific American, Encyclopedia Britannica

READ ALSO: What Is A Silent Heart Attack And How To Tell If A Person Had It


This article is purely for informational purposes. Do not self-medicate, and in all cases consult a certified healthcare professional before using any information presented in the article. The editorial board does not guarantee any results and does not bear any responsibility for harm that may result from using the information stated in the article.