• Question: Why does your heart rate increase when you are scared or panic?

    Asked by kamilo12 to David, Jonathan, Ou, Pete, Sam, Mus, Tess, Yue on 28 May 2012. This question was also asked by ellascientist, abdul1234.
    • Photo: Pete Etchells

      Pete Etchells answered on 28 May 2012:

      It’s part of something called the “Fight or Flight” process. When you are scared by something, there are two things you can do about it – attack it to scare it off (“fight”), or you can run away from it (“flight”). Your body reacts by releasing adrenaline into your system, which increases your breathing rate, heart rate and causes your pupils to dilate, among other things. This means that you are better prepared to deal with the thing making you scared – in particular, the increased breathing rates will deliver more oxygen to your muscles, making it easier for you to get away if you need to.