Many people don’t watch horror because they think scary movies negatively affect their mental state.
However, as it turned out, watching “horror” is not only not harmful to health, but also has some benefits for the psyche.
Watching scary movies could help you:
- burn extra calories
- stimulate your brain
- help with anxiety
- show your courage
- express latent agression
- strength your psyche
- give you an immunity boost
- feel intense emotions
- explore death theme
Further in my article, I’ll tell you more about the benefits of watching horror movies. Let’s keep going!
Psychology of watching horror movies.
When we interact with any art, we experience various emotions. As a rule, scary films actively include feelings of fear and disgust.
At the same time, we react as if the threat to us is real: there is an increase in heart rate, blood pressure, sweating of the hands, etc.
By themselves, these manifestations are neither harmful nor beneficial. On the contrary, for some, this tone helps to be more actively involved in life.
But, on the other hand, for some, it is overstimulation; it can cause increased anxiety, temporary sleep disturbance, and even a panic attack. Moreover, scary movies are bad for young children who do not yet distinguish between fiction and reality.
When looking at horror films from a psychotherapist’s point of view, it is easy to see that horror filmmakers use the most effective and traditional fear triggers. That is such phenomenons that scare many people.
Therefore, it is easy for the viewer to identify with a character who is also frightened. At the same time, the situation of watching a movie in a cinema or at home with friends is safe. It is similar to the phobia trigger exposure method used by cognitive behavioral therapists to reduce the client’s response to frightening stimuli such as spiders, snakes, etc.
By regularly observing frightening events in a safe environment, a person can become “bolder” about them.
What are the benefits of watching horror?
1 Immunity boost.
In addition to releasing negativity and negative emotions, the demonstration of horror films can strengthen a person’s immunity for a short period.
It turns out that when dangerous situations arise in the body, the level of white blood cells aimed at fighting diseases and infection increases.
2. Calorie burning.
When watching horror movies, viewers experience an increase in adrenaline levels, which speeds up the metabolism and allows them to get rid of calories without even getting up from the couch.
Releasing adrenaline improves blood flow, increases heart rate, and speeds up metabolism, leading to energy expenditure and calorie burning.
According to calculations, a spooky picture viewer burns about 113 calories in an hour and a half.
3 Opportunity to experience intense emotions.
When there are not enough emotions in life, we begin to look for them. Someone goes in for extreme sports, and someone finds them in scary scenes.
A person receives a portion of adrenaline and comes into a state of excitement, which remains with him for some time after watching. It feels good!
It is known that frightening situations attract people in real life. Many are interested in inexplicable phenomena, mysticism, catastrophes, and natural disasters. Horror films are a treasure trove of such situations.
4 Images of the aggressor, victim, or savior.
Everyone has subpersonalities as an aggressor, a victim, and a savior. In scary films, as a rule, there are always roles of the first two.
While watching a horror movie, we unconsciously live each of the roles and then, again unconsciously, stop at one.
But if people with obvious mental problems are addicted to the genre, this can cause even more damage to their mental health. An average person looks at violence with disgust and experiences physical tension. But this is an alarming sign if the hero’s suffering gives the viewer pleasure.
5 Latent aggression.
For some, watching scary movies is a way to let off steam and aggression: a person associates himself with the villain and is attracted to these images. This is not a pathology as long as it does not interfere with his life and the lives of others.
Crimes, aggression, and cruelty in horror films affect the dark area of the unconscious, and a person involuntarily experiences emotions that he does not dare to receive in reality. It can be beneficial: a person will get what he wants without doing anything wrong.
6 Opportunity to show courage.
Among fans of this genre, there are more men than women. Scientists attribute this to the desire to show courage: men are satisfied when a horror movie does not cause them a feeling of fear.
And for these reasons, sometimes they invite their soul mate to a horror movie: when a woman is scared, she is more likely to seek physical contact, and a man will be able to show courage and “protect” her.
7 Interest in the topic of death.
The theme of death, which is often found in scary films, has always attracted a person. It can be said that the sight of someone else’s death sharpens the sense of one’s own life.
Horror help some to get a taste of life to the fullest. Finally, a person realizes that death is inevitable, and life is finite, and this rule works for everyone. In horror films, death often comes quickly and unexpectedly, encouraging us to appreciate every minute of the time allotted.
8 Mind training.
Watching “horrors” helps temper the psyche and redirect and throw out all internal fears. The brain is in a state of tension, even feeling that the danger is fictitious.
Therefore, the body produces chemicals that keep it in a state of alert for an unexpected threat. And when the movie ends, the tension subsides, and there is a feeling of relaxation and contentment.
Scientists believe that screen horrors do not make an adult want to resort to violence and kill people because the brain can distinguish between fictional and real situations.
9 Brain stimulation.
Spooky movie stimulates brain activity. The viewer is trained to notice more details thanks to the release of neurotransmitters (substances responsible for transferring information between neurons).
Horror films also cause the brain to release dopamine and serotonin in response to fear – the same hormones are responsible for the feeling of falling in love. So watching horror movies together can bring people together based on shared interests and romantically.
Do horror movies help with anxiety?
Anxiety is usually manifested by intense worry about a future event or the future in general. Although anxiety is an unpleasant feeling, in adequate “doses” a person needs it to protect himself from a real threat, prevent accidents and take care of himself.
Let’s see how scary pictures can help you deal with anxiety.
The ability to experience personal unrest apart from yourself.
We project our fear onto the characters in the movie.
As a result, there is an experience of fear which our psyche needs, and then a sense of one’s security; the body is not threatened by anything. So it dramatically reduces the overall level of anxiety.
Permission to feel.
Sometimes the psyche can experience tragic, traumatic events for years. People block emotions because they don’t know how to deal with them.
In society, it is not customary to raise specific topics – they frighten and repel, and others shun such conversations. And in a horror films, they speak openly about the terrible. A person can freely experience memories and reactions and allow himself to feel fear and pain.
A feeling of control.
Fear and anxiety are the basis of the horror genre. At the center of each such work is a particular threat (monsters, viruses, killers).
When watching the film, the viewer continues to feel anxiety, but now it is not associated with uncontrollable life circumstances but with a fictional plot.
If desired, if a person becomes too anxious, you can turn on the light, watch in the daytime, close your eyes when it’s terrifying, or even google whether everything will end well.
Thus a person gets a sense of control lacking in real life.
Moreover, a person watching this movie, which he chose himself, is already an additional element of situation control, and an alarming situation (watching a movie) has a specific end date. Therefore, at the film’s end, the viewer may feel relieved that the threat is over.
So horror films can be considered a vaccination against the stresses and horrors of the world. In addition, they help improve coping skills and serve as a kind of enjoyable exposure therapy.
If you`re ready to get scared, check out my collection of 11 scary movies about witches.
What is your favorite scary movie? Write down in the comments.
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IsabellaOctober 9, 2022 at 10:03 am
What an interesting concept! I never thought about what horror movies could do for my brain before now. I looooove horror and psychological thrillers so i’m glad to learn that something positive can come out of watching them .
Charlie-Elizabeth NadeauOctober 9, 2022 at 11:05 am
Very interesting read, I wasn’t aware that watching horror movies could be beneficial. For me it would be what you called overstimulation, horror scenes just stay in my head and cause me to be somewhat paranoid for the next day or two. But having read your article, I might have to try and test my courage by watching some to gain the benefits. Thank you for sharing!