With Halloween being the number one movie in the country for several weeks, a lot of people are looking at the relationship between horror movies, anxiety, and mental health. Contrary to what a lot of people may initially believe, horror films can help people deal with trauma, PTSD, depression, anxiety and more.
There have indeed been studies about how people have used horror movies to heal and deal with mental health issues. While many people don’t like horror films because they don’t like being scared, many can enjoy them because you’re being scared in a safe environment, and you know what’s scaring you is ultimately not real.
Horror has been around in one form or another for many centuries. Even before we had movies, we’ve enjoyed the spooky tales of Edgar Allan Poe, being spooked on Halloween and so on.
The site Well and Good reports that if you want to settle in and watch a bunch of scary movies, it’s “an expert-approved way to boost mental health.” The story even spoke to a “fear scientist” who explained, “We have four basic emotions: happiness, sadness, anger, and fear. Fear is there to keep us alive, and it’s something that is so inherently part of just being human, but we have this really kind of dysfunctional relationship with fear.”
And indeed, many times we see people wearing t-shirts saying NO FEAR, and people encouraging the world to be fearless.
But as this doctor explains, “The horror genre gives us a safe space to express our fears, to talk about our fears, to say ‘I was scared!’ without having the kind of personal obligation to say that you are a fearful person.”
How Horror Can Help
Much like when you’re riding a rollercoaster, there can be great fun in being scared. It’s cathartic to scream your head off, and at the end of a wild ride, your knees may be wobbling, but it can be an incredible release as well. Same with seeing a scary movie. You’re with a group of people all screaming and letting out their fears in a large group. You look around you and realize everyone else is scared too, and it’s okay to be scared.
This article listed three other ways that horror films can be beneficial, and the first one was very surprising. They can boost your confidence. When you go through extreme fear then come out through the other end, you know what extreme fear can feel like, and know that you can survive it.
“There’s a lot of stress before encountering something scary,” one source explains. “But once it’s encountered, you reset the bar at a higher setpoint. Now nothing else seems like a big deal.”
Horror films can feel euphoric because fear can release a lot of powerful chemicals in your body, like adrenaline and serotonin, much like when you’re exercising like a maniac in the gym.
Scary movies aren’t for everybody, and they can be very disturbing for people who aren’t horror inclined. But like a lot of things in life, when you walk through your fear, it’s wonderful to learn that in many cases there was nothing to be afraid of in the first place.