Can one die of fright?

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Faerie (January 18, 2011, 07:55:15 AM):
My 57 year old uncle passed away very suddenly last week Monday, he was swimming in a dam on the family farm alongside a rowboat with his wife and kids in when he just looked up and asked her to help him and then sunk, she hauled him out but it was done. Happy circumstances, they were on holiday, nothing dangerous in the vicinity, no drama, no nothing.

The autopsy results came back stating absolutely nothing wrong, no heart attack, no stroke/anurism - zip.

There's a lot of woo surrounding the farm dam, and the labourers refuse to set foot near the place, stating its haunted and that they've lost a few people there due to being frightened to death, so this is now what my mother clings to, and all she can speak about too, she'll never set foot on the farm again blah, blah, blah.

I've googled a bit and came up with this, but I'm not convinced, there has to be some underlying physiological condition that causes the death, imo the fear itself is just a trigger. Of course, I could be wrong, but I'd much rather think that the brain would shut down (i.e you'd faint)long before you die of fear. Does anybody have another theory or information re this?

Parasympathetic rebound is a possible reaction of the parasympathetic nervous system during intense fear. It can cause death. Some soldiers literally die of fear in combat. Older people and people with cardiovascular conditions may experience heart attack or collapse due to sympathetic activation. [1]

[edit] References
^ Notebook
When you are so frightened your metabolism works over time to try and calm you down but sometimes is too effective and calms you down so much that your heart just stops.

Retrieved from ""

Brian (January 18, 2011, 08:12:04 AM):
Recently ABC News did a study on this very question and they discovered - yes... A person can be scared to death... When a person is scared by an earthquake, a near miss car accident, or any other sudden adrenaline inducing experience they can die.... it's like a drug overdose of adrenaline. In most people the adrenaline goes away and their heart beat starts to slow down and they are fine.. a little shaken up - but fine and others ( a very very small percentage) their heart is so completely shocked by the adrenaline rush it that it literally stops.....

To reduce the possibility of dying from fright the experts say to be prepared - know what to do in an earthquake, car accident, and whatever thing that can cause fear... People who feel that they have some control over a situation are less likely to die of fright...

GCG (January 18, 2011, 09:58:24 AM):
i concurr on the adrenaline overdose theory. i could well imagine that, if your heart is not used to intense work, then sudden exposure to adrenaline can be fatal. i think the modern human is very meek and fragile in comparison to our ancestors.

with regards to the haunted dam. i wonder, if, there might be a chemical factor involved. maybe something was dumped into that water years ago, and when you swim there, and inevitably ingest some water, it may be poisonous, or reacts with a specific biological function. i dont know if animals drink from there, and what kind of reaction they have to the waters.
Faerie (January 18, 2011, 10:52:00 AM):
i concurr on the adrenaline overdose theory. i could well imagine that, if your heart is not used to intense work, then sudden exposure to adrenaline can be fatal.

But this would translate into a heart attack, can one's heart just stop? - a healthy, relatively young one at that? I'm just very dubious about a "natural" death in a healthy, relatively young person, I'm seeking a reason, and no reason seem to exist, and that I cannot accept. (its like bloody religion, I dont have proof, therefore I cannot accept) The guy is dead, there is a reason for that, and I'm now curious about finding something that makes sense to me. On top of it, the man was not in distress, there was no threat at all and he was simply swimming, apparantly even his request for help was not distressed, but simply in the vein of "help me into the boat"

The woo surrounding the dam is bullshit, I grew up swimming in that dam and playing kleilat, WITH the local's kids. The family is looking for a reason in exactly the same as I, but they're comfortable with woo and I am not.
GCG (January 18, 2011, 12:00:17 PM):
But this would translate into a heart attack, can one's heart just stop? -

have a look at this site:, seems that young, healthy people, drop dead for no reason.

i dont know how good your uncle was with this medical check-ups, but even if he was, if the doctor wasnt thorough, or maybe overlooked something, a symptom could have been overlooked.

sudden cardiac death is different from cardiac arrest and a heart attack.
sudden cardiac death - there seems to be a plethora of causes for SCD, which seems mostly to underlying problems with the heart itsself, or the valves, which may, or may not, show symptoms. it seems, that once the onset of SCD occurs, its irreversable.
The mechanism of death in a the majority of patients dying of sudden cardiac death is ventricular fibrillation and as a consequence there may be no prodromal symptoms associated with the death. These patients may be going about their daily business and suddenly collapse without the typical features of myocardial infarction such as chest pain and shortness of breath.

cardiac arrest - is an abrupt cessation of pump function in the heart, and Coronary heart disease is the leading cause of sudden cardiac arrest. Prompt intervention can usually reverse a cardiac arrest.
heart attack - this is where the arteries cannot provide sufficient bloodflow to the heart muscle, and the heart is deprived of oxygen, and stop working. this is where blockages from cholestorol build-up and fat around the heart come into play.


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