to freak out

1 To freak out basically means to lose one's temper or otherwise LOSE CONTROL of oneself out of anger or extreme shock, or even in reaction to a drug. 

For instance, in the second snippet below, Cooper took an unknown drug at a party, and the effects of it temporarily drove him out of his mind and made him act crazy; he lost control of himself and went into a delirium. When people freak out, they yell, scream, cry; or in extreme cases, they can even become violent and lash out. In other words, a total loss of control.


In this context, it's possible to leave off the out and just say that someone freaked. Another phrase that means the same thing is flip (out).

Eddie comes back from lunch to find all his coworkers standing around nervous, crying and looking like it's the end of the world. He asks his manager, Sam, what happened.


Eddie: Sam, what the hell's going on?!

Sam: Barbara got a call from the police about a half hour ago telling her that her son had been in a car accident and was in critical condition. Five minutes later, they called back to tell her he was gone.

Eddie: Oh my God... I've known Ricky since he was little. He went to school with my kids. Where's Barbara?

Sam: When they called her the second time, she totally freaked out. The paramedics had to come give her a sedative, and then her daughter came and picked her up. I guess they're at the hospital.

Coworkers Ron and Jimmy contemplate inviting the office loner to a party.


Ron: Hey, I’m having a little get-together at my place this weekend. Come around 3.

Jimmy: Oh cool. Can I bring someone? 

Ron: Yeah, bring whoever you want. The more the merrier. Hey, you think I should invite Cooper? 

Jimmy: You can try, but he probably won’t show up.

Ron: Why is that? How come he never does anything with us?

Jimmy: When we were in high school, he went to a party with some druggies from school. Somebody gave him something, and he freaked out. Apparently, he took off all his clothes, climbed on the roof and was crying and talking about jumping off. It was a mess. He was in treatment for years. He hasn’t been the same since.

Ron: Poor guy. Well, I’m going to invite him. Who knows, maybe we can help him come out of his shell.

Jimmy: Yeah, I’ll say something too.

In this context, Cooper reacted to a narcotic by totally losing control of himself and going into a frenzy. This has nothing to do with fear or anger — he simply temporarily went out of his mind.
_____________⦿ to contemplate | to consider doing something⦿ loner | a person who's always on their own and rarely talk to or interacts with others⦿ get-together | an informal party; just a few friends hanging out⦿ the more the merrier | an idiom meaning that the more people there are somewhere, the funner it’ll be⦿ to not show up | to not arrive as scheduled or invited⦿ druggie | someone known for their habit of using drugs⦿ to give someone something | to give or slip someone a narcotic⦿ in treatment | here: under the care of a psychiatrist or therapist⦿ to come out of one’s shell | to come out of one’s shyness and start to interact with others

2 The verb freak out can also be used transitively: to freak somebody out. However, the meaning is very different from that of (1) above. When someone or something freaks you out, there's no loss of control, no anger, no yelling or crying. Instead, someone shows or tells you something so creepy, scary, or alarming that you can't stop thinking about it; it stays with you. In other words, it has a kind of lingering psychological effect on you. 

For instance, if you watch a movie about the world ending and then keep thinking about it and actually considering the possibility that it could happen to the point that you're worried or can't sleep. Or something unexplainable, as in our snippet below — having a stranger tell you something about yourself that they couldn't possibly know and leaving you with your mouth open. These are both examples of someone or something freaking you out.

Say you're on a train and you start a conversation with the guy next to you... 


You: So what do you do?

Man: I'm a psychic.

You: Are you now?! 

Man: You think that's funny?

You: No, sorry. I guess I'm just skeptical.

Man: Oh really? What if I told you you had coffee and oatmeal for breakfast this morning.

You: Well, I did, but that's a lucky guess. A lot of people eat that for breakfast.

Man: What if I told you you were going to have a slice of pizza for breakfast, but decided that would be too unhealthy.

You: Ok, you're starting to freak me out...

Man: And what if I told you the milk was bad, so you had to drink your coffee black?

You: Yeah... now you're freaking me out.

Tom and his neighbor, Dan, are going to take the boat out for the day and do some fishing. As they’re pulling out of the driveway, Tom realizes he forgot to grab some sunscreen.


Tom: Hey, dude, pull over a second. I need to run back in the house and grab my sunscreen. 

Dan: Since when do you wear sunscreen?

Tom: Since my friend’s wife died last month of skin cancer. She got a little spot on her back, and a month later, she was dead. It totally freaked me out. Now, I don’t even look out the window without putting on sunscreen.

Dan: Yeah, no kidding! Grab me some.

_________________⦿ to pull out | to drive a vehicle out of a place — usually in reverse⦿ to pull over | to drive a vehicle to the side of the road and stop