Screaming Super Fan
There is no shortage of things that make you scream (or make you want to): people who wait until the last possible minute to merge into traffic, junk emails that can’t be unsubscribed, big bugs, all vermin, people who resort to correcting grammar when they sense they will lose an argument, salespeople who hand back the dollars with the change loose on top (apparently so they can watch it fall), snakes and reptiles, and people who say “literally” when they mean “figuratively.” And of course, truly scary things like mummies, bats, monsters, zombies and spiders.
The Beatles were the first stadium rock band, even before stadium rock had been invented. During the Beatles tour of Scotland in October 1963, the term “Beatlemania” was created to describe the behavior of their frenzied fans. These predominantly teenage girls were so enamored of the Lads from Liverpool, they cried, screamed and even fainted for the boys with the moptop haircuts. Thousands of people stormed the stage during and after a performance – it was hysteria with a healthy dose of chaos.
Typically, one would equate crying with sadness, screaming with fear and fainting with illness. However, any sudden strong emotion – from happiness to stress – can tempt the brain into generating one of these responses. The autonomic (involuntary) nervous system is divided into two branches: sympathetic (fight-or-flight) and parasympathetic (rest-and-digest). Acting via the hypothalamus, the sympathetic nervous system is designed to engage the body during times of stress. That’s why your heart rate quickens, you sweat, and you feel ready to run.
The parasympathetic nervous system, on the other hand, essentially calms you back down. But activation of parasympathetic receptors in the tear ducts by the neurotransmitter acetylcholine causes tear production. For other individuals, the sudden triggering of their parasympathetic nervous system causes a quick drop in blood pressure when blood vessels widen and the heart rate slows, resulting in fainting. In contrast, screaming is a bodily reaction to a stimulus, a vocalization of fear, excitement or surprise.
A 1966 study published in the British Journal of Clinical Psychology reported that Beatles fans were not likelier to score higher on the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory’s hysteria scale, nor were they unusually neurotic. Instead, they described Beatlemania as "the passing reaction of predominantly young adolescent females to group pressures of such a kind that meet their special emotional needs." As for the Beatles, this was a bunch of twenty-something kids making history. They gave it their all and surfed the power of the audience; they had conquered the world.
But the screaming over music idols continues. One Direction (abbreviated as 1D) was an English-Irish boy band based in London. They were contestants on the seventh season of The X Factor UK in 2010 and finished third. Despite losing the competition, they signed with a record label and released five best-selling albums between 2011 and 2015. In December 2015, the band announced an indefinite hiatus, and by May 2017 all members had released solo material.
In the same manner as Beatlemania, 1D fans traditionally shrieked and shouted for their music. But things were different for one devotee, who ended up in the emergency room after a concert a few years ago. The then 16-year-old girl told doctors that she had been screaming (forcefully) at the concert when she realized she was short of breath. That didn’t stop her, though; describing herself as a “Super Fan,” she continued yelling until the conclusion of the event.
The next day, her respiratory difficulties continued, which sent her to the emergency department. Instead of breathing a normal 12 to 16 times a minute, she was breathing 22 times a minute. Upon examination, the physician found that air had escaped between the lung and chest wall, into the chest cavity and behind the pharynx, creating a pneumothorax [ICD-10-CM code J93.83, Other pneumothorax; and Y92.254, Theater (live) as the place of occurrence of external cause]. The doctors ultimately deduced that her passionate vocalization forced air out of the respiratory tract into other bodily cavities and tissues. According to the attending physician, this type of injury generally results from something like an asthma attack, heavy weightlifting, diving or military flying. Similar cases on record included a drill sergeant and an opera singer. The unnamed teenager was kept overnight in the hospital, reassessed and released home where she completely recovered. The body typically reabsorbs the displaced air over time and breathing returns to normal.
The vision of the screaming, weeping teenage female concert fan has never been adequately explained. But dismissing this image is impossible because thousands of girls did scream, and continue to weep and swoon. Screaming, crying and fainting – exactly the things you’d want your idol to see you do, right?