The OED defines the verb freak-out as meaning:
- to freak out (occas. without out): to undergo an intense emotional experience, to become stimulated, to rave, esp. under the influence of hallucinatory drugs. Also trans., to cause (a person) to be aroused or stimulated in such a way. (Also in more trivial uses.) So
freaked-out adj. affected thus. freaking-out n.
Examples of freak-out are given from 1965. They stop in 1970, suggesting that this was perhaps a word of the 60s, though I still hear it being used mostly by Americans, a lot during the recent election campaign.
Typically the OED's examples are in both an active and passive context.
1970 It 27 Feb. 11/1 Aage leaps about and shouts at them and freaks them out.
1970 Nature 23 May 704/1 One question asked the respondents how often they had seen other people ‘freak out’, that is, have intense, transient emotional upsets.
The first of the above is a transitive verb, the second an active intransitive verb.
Sometimes people get freaked-out, sometimes they freak-out. In a newspaper article I have been reading on people who supported Donald Trump, a 25-year-old man, James Morrison says I was freaked out about Hillary because there were 33,000 emails....So, who or what did the freaking-out? Hillary is an indirect object governed by 'about'.
Now that does not sound quite the same sort of thing someone saying they freaked-out because of the 33,000 emails...
So how does the meaning change here between these two uses? Can anyone throw any light on the matter, please?
Edit. After giving further thought to this and after a helpful dialogue of comments with others, which has better crystallised the issue in my mind, I feel I should re-pose the question. What concerns me is that freaking-out, it seems, can be both a self generated experience (he freaked out) or something that is inflicted upon one (it freaked him out). I cannot for the moment think of any other verbs which behave in quite this way. Can anyone else?