shadowy large spider and a child

The Halloween Jitters: Why We Crave Fear & the Neuroscience of Spooky

Every Halloween, many people get excited at the thought of being frightened. With haunted houses at every corner and an influx of true crime and horror films to binge, have you ever wondered why we love to be scared? This blog explores the reasons we crave fear, plus some Halloween CBD-infused recipes to help you chill out on this fright-filled holiday!

The Neuroscience of Spooky

Fear is a fundamental, deeply wired reaction that protects organisms from perceived threats to their existence. It is an experience that is both physical and emotional. On a physical level, fear increases heart rate, breathing rate, and blood pressure. While on the emotional and cognitive side, it heightens one’s attention and triggers the body’s flight or fight response.

Two systems in our brains induce fear and anxiety in humans.

The first one is in the amygdala, located in the temporal lobe right under the temples on the side of the face. The amygdala activates when you first encounter the source of fear and is that initial stage before our brain goes into high alert.

Our frontal lobes also play a role in mediating our fear and anxiety response. This part of the brain governs consciousness. So, when you are in a situation that could potentially be dangerous it automatically heightens your fear level. Consequently, the fear response turns down when the environment is perceived to be safe.

Why Do We Crave Fear?

Many different factors and situations can elicit fear in an individual. No matter what form or shape it takes, fear is universal and occurs in most living creatures. You would expect that it’s the last thing humans want, but the interesting thing is we crave it. Here are four reasons why.

1. Stimulation

One of the most common reasons people crave fear is the physical and mental stimulation it triggers. In other words – the “high” you get off feeling that you have just escaped death. When your mind and body believe they are in danger, they release certain chemicals, like adrenaline and dopamine, that often result in a rush of energy or heightened sensations.

You often hear of “adrenaline junkies” like extreme parkour enthusiasts jumping off ledges like it’s a walk in the park. These people enjoy thrilling (potentially dangerous) lines of work like firefighting or emergency rescue. When adrenaline releases into your blood, it increases the heart rate and blood pressure and sharpens the senses. Many people crave fear because they seek this intense burst of energy and drive from adrenaline. The sensation is like going into a state of flow.

The main difference between fear and flow is that the former puts our minds in survival mode. In contrast, flow allows us to transition toward a thriving mode. Flow focuses on the increase of cognitive control; fear pertains to the loss of it. One mistake people make is seeking out fear to induce flow, but there’s a better, healthier way to achieve that.

2. Escapism

Another theory is that it is a way for people to escape their current realities and enjoy a world of novel experiences. Even better, the rush of fear also leaves you feeling accomplished and capable once you have run from a threat. And, unlike the uncontrollable nature of most natural fear, the beauty of most horror genres or amusement parks is that you are in control. It’s an outstanding balance of experiencing a thrill at your limit.

However, there is a certain level of danger in using fear to escape. After all, escapism is the opposite of mindfulness. Reality might be terrifying for some people, so they turn to horror movies to avoid difficult emotions or situations.

3. The Human Psyche

One theory is that watching horror films curbs a natural curiosity in most people who want to know more about the darkest parts of the human brain. Seeing what other people are capable of can remind us of the darkest parts of human existence and the fragility of life. It’s also reassuring to know that despite being capable of these things, you are (hopefully) inherently the opposite.

4. Do all people derive pleasure from horror?

No. Recent studies have shown that a combination of nature (genetics) and nurture (parenting) determines how you respond to fear and whether you enjoy the fright. An overlay of personal experience also heavily influences reactions to horror movies or anything scary. How did your family react when they saw a shadow looming over the hallway? How did your friends handle a life-threatening car crash?

It’s healthy to remember that different people experience fear differently. Traumatized people are less likely to enjoy frightful things. In comparison, individuals with a sheltered upbringing might crave it.

What To Do When You’re Too Scared To Sleep

So you’ve satisfied your craving for fear with an intense psycho-thriller, but now you can’t sleep. What do you do?

Too much fear can trigger an adrenaline response in our system, forcing us to stay awake and watch out for any signs of danger. Being alone with an overactive fear-primed imagination could also induce hypersensitivity to your surroundings. This hypersensitivity makes you more suspicious and “jumpy” around otherwise everyday things, like the wind blowing or the heaviness of your breathing. To counteract these effects, you can try one of our three favorite fear-reduction hacks:

1. Try Mindfulness Exercises

Breathing exercises are a great way to bypass our body’s natural fight or flight response when experiencing fear. Controlling your breathing slows your heart rate back to normal and snaps your system back to a more homeostatic state. Other meditation techniques like body scanning or loving-kindness are designed to take you out of your head and back to the present.

2. Cue Up a Comedy or Rom-Com

Another way to diffuse the tension and fear after watching a horror movie is to watch a comedy. Romantic comedies are especially helpful when you need to feel hopeful about life and love again and reaffirm the goodness in people and the positive aspects of human nature.

3. Try CBD Halloween Recipes

If you’re not feeling like sitting through an hour of comedy to dispense your fear, you can try cooking! For some people, it is therapeutic to follow through with every step in the recipe book meticulously. If you don’t have one handy, don’t worry. Below are some easy Halloween recipes:

CBD-Infused Pumpkin Cookies

Try out these cookies for your next scary movie marathon.


  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, divided
  • 2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 3 tablespoons milk

1 tablespoon butter, softened

  • Preheat the oven to 350° F. 
  • Mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in a medium bowl. 
  • Beat sugar and ½ cup of butter in a mixer bowl until blended. Beat the pumpkin, egg, 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract, and drops of CBD until smooth. 
  • Gradually combine sugar and pumpkin mixture in flour mixture until well blended. 
  • Drop pieces onto greased baking sheets. 
  • Bake for 15 to 18 minutes until the edges are firm. Cool for 2 minutes and serve with powdered sugar drizzled on top.

CBD-Infused Dog Treats

Dogs often feel anxious during this time of year, especially with the rush of trick-or-treaters knocking at their door. Check out this CBD-infused peanut butter and pumpkin dog treat recipe to help keep your fur friend calm.
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • ⅓ cup peanut butter (remember to double-check that the peanut butter you’re using does NOT contain Xylitol, a type of sweetener that is highly toxic to dogs)
  • ½ cup pumpkin puree
  • 3 drops of full-spectrum CBD
  • Preheat the oven to 350° F. 
  • Mix flour, pumpkin, peanut butter, and CBD until blended.
  • Work on a parchment paper and a flat surface to knead the dough until it comes together. Use a rolling pin to flatten the dough to ¼ inch thickness. 
  • Use dog treat cutters to cut out desired shapes. 
  • Place in baking sheets and bake for 30-35 minutes until they turn golden brown. Cool on a wire rack and enjoy!

Being scared is a human experience. Enjoy your horror movies and mystery novels—there’s nothing wrong with having a craving for fear. It only becomes a problem when you put yourself and others at risk in the name of the thrill.

Have a safe, scary, and happy Halloween!