Why we feel fear, and why it can be fun

Fear and pleasure have some hormones and neurotransmitters in common.

Media Contact: Chris Talbott - talbottc@uw.edu, 206-543-7129

What makes Halloween scariness seem fun?  It’s partly due to the way our brain processes fear, according to Michele Bedard-Gilligan, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Washington School of Medicine. 

“(Fear) kicks off a reaction of stress hormones and neurotransmitters, namely adrenaline and dopamine, that then follows and goes down the body and sort of kicks in that fight, flight, freeze reaction,” Bedard-Gilligan said. “Those adrenaline and dopamine releases that we get, they're also linked to pleasure centers in the brain. And for many of us, that feels fun and exciting to kind of have that type of reaction, particularly when it's happening in a space that we know is actually not objectively dangerous.” 

Learn about the other factors that connect fear and joy in our blog post

UW Medicine