Will watching scary or horror movies help anxiety?
More than just a good scare, it is possible that horror movies help anxiety and allow us to relax and de-stress. Scary movies, according to studies, stimulate adrenaline and improve mood. Here’s all you need to know about jump scares, morbid curiosity, and the ironic calming benefits of fear.
As strange as it may seem, many people find that these terrifying experiences can really help them relax. One recent study discovered that during the pandemic, horror enthusiasts are reporting lower symptoms of psychological anguish. Another study has found that watching horror movies boosts adrenaline and mood.
Let’s first understand how our body responds to fear. When we get scared, our heart rushes, our breathing quickens, and the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline are released by our nervous system. This is known as the fight or flight response. Combine this with the setting in which we view our media, horror movies help anxiety by allowing us to face our fears while being in control in a safe space.
Anxious people are then able to handle their own anxiety since they are able to turn off or on what they are viewing at the comfort of their own. Watching scary movies in a theater gives it a bit more thrill as a walkout will lead to a walk of shame, but the person is still in control to choose whether or not to leave their seat.
Horror movies help anxiety in a way that it can also be a distraction from real life anxiety and what goes on during work, school, or socializing. “So in watching a horror movie, your perceived threat shifts from whatever thing you’re worrying about to whatever the character in the movie is worrying about. And then when the movie ends, the feelings of anxiety go away because the threat goes away,” says Coltan Scrivner, a PhD student in the Department of Comparative Human Development at the University of Chicago.
For those who are actually spooked out by horror in general, it may not be the case for you that horror movies help anxiety. In fact, it might not be a good idea to attempt to watch any at all since it may lead to more anxiety. These types of films should only be viewed by those who can embrace the fright and not dwell too far into the psychological fears that may result from horror. If you are unsure, consider watching with a friend or even try out a tv show or a book. Remember that if the end result is not entertaining, it will not help your anxiety and mental health.