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Happy Halloween: A paranormal play on immune health activity

Posted Oct 27 2009 11:04pm

I remember back in the day when the movie The Exorcist came out. It was a watershed event for the movie industry. No film had ever scared the bejeepers out of audiences like that movie. “On the day after Christmas,” began a 1974 Newsweek cover story, “a film called ‘The Exorcist’ opened in 22 cities across America. Since then, all hell has broken loose.” Just reading about it creeped me out. I avoided going to it until several years later, when it was at a drive-in. Even then, after years of mental preparation, it still scared the dickens out of me.

Now, it appears a similar kind of movie, Paranormal Activity, is sweeping the country. People I’ve talked to who’ve seen it said it not only made ‘em jump out of their seats–particularly the final two minutes–but it provided for some sleepless nights thereafter.

Such immense fright made me wonder, of course, what is the effect on the immune system? We’ve covered stress and immune health in this blog, but what about sheer fright? Actually, it’s a mixed bag, depending on whether the fear is short-term or long-term in duration. Several health and medical sources cite human and animal studies showing short-term fear may actually enhance immune response, while protracted fear can deplete and weaken immune function. One source references a study where mice were placed in a cage with an aggressive mouse for two hours and exhibited an increased immune response to flu virus.

Another leading anxiety blogger alludes to a Standford study showing mice responding to acute short term stress–maybe the equivalent of your screaming your brains out at the movie Halloween when Jason first appears with his chain saw–not only exhibited amped up immune response, but that heightened immune status lasted for several weeks after the episode.

Maybe this means that right before getting a flu shot, go tour a haunted house…or watch the YouTube of Roseann Barr singing the national anthem.

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