Can watching horror movies help your anxiety?


Woman watching a scary horror movie on tv late at night, she is frightened and hiding under the blanket

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – Fall is the time of year when the thoughts of many turn spooky and scary, and when the major streaming services look to satisfy their viewer’s need for a Halloween scare.

Halloween or not, for some people, watching horror movies is a relaxing activity, just like enjoying a sitcom. Recent research says that type of activity may be beneficial.

Dr. Sarah Martin, psychiatrist with Texas Tech Physicians of El Paso, said watching horror films could be a form of relief, but it varies from person to person.

“Usually you will get some kind of expression of emotion that can be kind of relieving,” she explained.

However, she said, this usually happens when we’re watching something that makes us cry.

“Nine out of 10 times, they will feel better after that,” Dr. Martin said.

According to a study by a doctorate candidate Coltan Scrivner, published in Personality and Individual Differences journal, those who watch horror movies are more likely to practice effective anxiety coping mechanisms that are useful in the real world. (You can read the full study here.)

Another idea behind exposing ourselves to something that scares us, she explained, reminds of exposure therapy that is used by some psychiatrists in clinical conditions that treat a person’s phobia with the trigger itself.

This type of therapy is used to help overcome the fear.

Dr. Martin advised to make sure your children are watching age-appropriate content. Films with plenty of violence and horror can cause nightmares and will especially affect children who are already anxious.

The main takeaway is, she said, to do what makes you feel good, even if it means watching horrifying scenes in the dark with a bag of popcorn in your lap.

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