Halloween came and went, but the spooky season doesn’t die out quickly for everyone. People may want to leave decorations up, dreading the arrival of the merry, twinkling lights of the holiday season. Those same people may still want to watch horror movies, which are typically cheesy but provide the occasional jump scare. If you enjoy horror movies, health experts say that scaring yourself straight may come with some surprising mental health benefits.
According to mental health experts, putting yourself in fear-inducing situations that don’t put you in danger can benefit you mentally. Haunted houses, scary video games, horror movies, etc. are terrifying for some and highly enjoyable for others. The psychology behind a person’s interest in all things horror is fascinating, though. In fact, watching horror movies goes much deeper than you might imagine. Here are a few reasons why watching scary movies may benefit your mental health.
They Can Help You cope With Fear
By watching stressful or terrifying scenarios on screen, you may improve your ability to cope with similar situations in real life. A January 2021 study, for example, found that fans or horror films showed signs of more resilience and preparedness during the COVID-19 pandemic. People who preferred alien invasion or zombie movies did not seem as resilient or prepared as horror movie fans in that study.
Psychologists note managing things in real life may become simpler after focusing on a horrific situation in a scary movie. Exposure-based treatment is nothing new, but it involves intentionally watching things that trigger phobias or trauma. When you repeatedly do this, you learn to tolerate the anxiety and respond more calmly when it actually happens.
They May Teach You Something About Yourself
Seeing something horrific play out in a movie may give you empowering insight about who you are as a person. If you can sit through a scary movie without freaking out, you have learned to overcome your fears, according to a 2021 study. Even if you need to leave the room and turn on the lights when the movie gets too intense, you’ve learned something about yourself. This may help you realize how you might handle a real-life situation that evokes a similar reaction. Self-knowledge can be a great thing!
They Can Give You A Feel-Good Rush
When you see a blood-curdling scene on the screen, adrenaline floods your system, activating your fight-or-flight response. This rush can elevate your heart rate and cause your muscles to tense up, which is an exhilarating experience for some. Even though you know you’re scared, you are ultimately safe, according to 2020 research. The masked murderer may break into every house on the block in the movie, but you enjoy that panicky pit in your stomach. It is thrilling, not terrifying, because you know they aren’t coming for your house. Psychologists say that this is why many people feel a mood boost after watching horror movies.
In closing, there is no evidence that confirms watching monsters or slashers on screen will have a negative effect on long-term health or mental health. For some people, though, horror movies can activate short-term anxiety. Watching a scary movie before bed may give you nightmares or make it more difficult to fall asleep. Lastly, watching horror movies on a regular basis may desensitize you to upsetting situations in real life. A study confirmed that people who frequently watched violence in movies experienced a rapid spike and drop in blood pressure when shown a violent video, suggesting a lower emotional reactivity to violence.