You're scaring me

A: Worst case scenario, the NTSB lists me as the probable cause. That’s immediate retirement. No pension. My life’s work gone.
B: Okay, you’re scaring me now, Sully. What is going on?

Question: Is it okay to say “you scared me” instead of “you’re scaring me” in this situation?

Thank you!!!

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In my experience, “you scared me” means that you scared/suprised me but I am no longer scared/surprised. “You’re scaring me” means you just said/did something that is making me scared right now (I am still scared), but I’m not sure that I have all the details. Some examples:

Example 1:
You are getting some water, and a friend comes up behind you and says “hi”. You get surprised and flinch (jolt or jump a little), and say “You scared me” to your friend. Here “you scared me” means “you surprised me”. This is used in lots of situations where someone surprises you and makes you jump/jolt/flinch.

Example 2:
You are in a meeting, and your boss says “I have some bad news for you.” You think you are going to get fired. But your boss tells you that the company can no longer pay for coffee. You say “you scared me” to mean “I was expecting something worse, and was scared, but now I am not”. This is generally used when you were expecting something bad, but it turned out to be not so bad. (Another example: a parent might say “you scared me” to their kid if they are out very late and didn’t call, making the parent think something bad happened.)

Example 3:
Your doctor tells you “I have good news and bad news.” You respond with “You’re scaring me, is something wrong with my health?” In this case, you mean “It sounds like something bad is happening, what is it?” In general, “you’re scaring me” is used when someone says/does something that makes you think something bad happened, is happening, or is going to happen, but you don’t know the details.

Note: “You’re scaring me” is usually used in uncertain situations. If your doctor said “You have a terminal illness” and you felt scared, you wouldn’t say “you’re scaring me”, you would just say “I’m scared” (because there is no uncertainty here).

“You scared me” - I was scared or surprised, but now I’m not
“You’re scaring me” - I am scared based on what you told me, but it sounds like there are more details that I am missing.
“I’m scared” - I am scared


Thank you very much.

And how about the last sentence “what’s going on”? Is it the same as “what happened?”

Like with “You’re scaring me” vs “You scared me”, the distinction is also a continuing action vs completed action distinction. “What happened?” means she expects to hear about a particular piece of bad news that has happened as a one-off event, like, the person got fired from his job, or had a car accident or something. Whereas “What’s going on?” implies that she expects to hear that the bad news is something still in progress, like he’s being chased by the police, or someone is blackmailing him or something.