When You Die Of Fright, This Is What Happens To Your Body

There are many terrible ways to die, but when we envision our own demise and all the possible ways it could happen, being literally scared to death isn't much of a concern. But guess what — being so frightened that you die is an actual thing. According to Cleveland Clinic, it is a rarity, but heart attacks can be triggered by fear and other intense emotions. Although people with heart conditions are more likely to succumb to this phenomenon, it can happen to anyone. Specifically, the condition is called stress cardiomyopathy. When you are in a fight or flight situation, it can cause such a strain on your heart that the organ fails. Most of the time, stress cardiomyopathy is temporary, and people recover. But sometimes, they don't. 

The other thing that's happening in your body when you're super scared is lots of adrenaline is released, which speeds up your heart and raises your blood pressure and blood glucose levels. And when your nervous system kicks in, it may feel like the instinct to either run or fight. All that internal drama can a heart arrhythmia, spasms, or constriction of blood vessels, which can be bad, m'kay.  According to Cleveland Clinic, any of those three situations can send the body into heart failure. But the American Heart Association says that the situation has to be hella-for-real-scary for a person to actually succumb to death caused by fear.

Criminals have been convicted for causing fear-induced deaths

The good news is if it's an expected fear, like a haunted house or roller coaster, that's not as risky because your brain expects to be scared to some degree. The kind of fear that can kill someone, ironically, is sudden life and death situations — like when you almost fall off a cliff getting that perfect selfie, or when you encounter a deadly animal in the wild and it's definitely sizing you up. Of course, people can scare each other to death too. We kill each other on the regular, so being held at gunpoint or in some kind of attack situation causes legitimate fear. 

In fact, NBC News reported that a lackluster bank robber once ended up in the home of a 79-year-old woman hiding out from the police. The woman was so scared she died of a heart attack, and the armed robber was charged with her death, although he ended up getting out of the conviction, per FindLaw. Still, NBC News notes that two criminals were separately convicted with causing the deaths of two people who died of "fear-induced heart attacks" as a result of said criminals breaking into their homes.  

The American Heart Association reported that cardiologist Dr. Vincent Bufalino thinks that people with better cardiovascular fitness are less likely to die of fear because the body can better handle the flood of adrenaline's effect on the heart. Yet another great reason to get into jazzercise.