Scream Therapy: Why Horror Movies Are Actually Good For You

No one can deny the thrill, excitement, and downright fun of watching a horror movie with friends. But as it turns out, horror movies are more than just entertainment. In fact, they might even be good for you – And there’s science to back it up! If your New Year’s resolutions involve taking better care of your mental health, consider putting a scary movie viewing party on your to-do list. Here’s why seeing the new Scream (in theatres January 14th) might be the perfect way to kick off your New Year stress-free.

Ghostface terrorizing the town of Woodsboro is undoubtedly scary. But watching horror movies can actually help you manage stress long-term.

Horror Films Can Help You Cope With Your Anxiety  

It feels counterintuitive that watching an edge-of-your-seat thriller could be good for your anxiety. After all, when you watch a horror movie, you’re prepared to spend two straight hours terrified by what plays out on screen. But even though your heart is pounding as loud as the speakers in the theater, horror movies are so exciting because the fear is controlled.  

In a recent CBS This Morning segment ‘The Science of Fear and Why Humans Love Scary Movies’, Joseph Ledoux, a professor of neural science at NYU, put it perfectly: “Why do people love horror flicks? Because they get that rush in a safe context.The chills you experience at the theater can make you feel a sense of terror, when really, you’re perfectly safe – Even though your favorite characters might not be. 

Watching horror movies can help you reduce overall stress levels, by developing coping mechanisms to handle everyday anxieties. As Kurt Oaklee, MA, MFT, founder of Oaklee Psychotherapy in San Francisco, California, points out: “[Horror] can actually teach us how to handle real-world stress better. During a stressful film, we are intentionally exposing ourselves to anxiety producing stimuli. We usually don’t engage in the same unhealthy coping mechanisms that we utilize in real life. We learn how to manage the stress in the moment. This practice can translate to helping us manage everyday stressors and fears.” This means that your moviegoing experience does more than provide you short-term entertainment. It can also help you tackle stressful situations in the long run. 

Horror Films Are All About Community 

When watching movies in the theater, you never feel alone. Even though you’re sitting in the dark, you’re surrounded by other people. Friends, family, and the ushers cleaning up your candy are there to remind you that everything is going to be okay. Although anxiety can feel like an isolating experience most of the time, watching a horror movie can make you feel connected with others because you’re all experiencing the same emotions. Even when you’re on the edge of your seat, you’re in this together. Sharing in that anxiety, fear, and excitement with a group of people can provide a sense of connection and catharsis.

Tyler Gillett, one of the Director’s of the upcoming Scream, stated that horror movies are “the desire of having a shared experience. Our mortality, it’s the thing that we all, at the end of the day, have in common. And, so, you get to be in a place where you can have that excised in a really real and emotive and communal way.” 

Sidney Prescott returns to Woodsboro in Scream (2022)

When you get together with friends or family to watch a horror movie, you’re doing more than having a fun time with your favorite people. You’re also relieving stress in a safe environment. You’re giving yourself the chance to unwind. You’re deciding that yes, you deserve to have some real fun! If you want to treat yourself this new year and relieve stress while doing it, check out Scream, only in theatres January 14th. 

Scream is only in theaters on January 14, 2022. Check out the trailer below and get tickets here. 

Holly is the author of Severe(d): A Creepy Poetry Collection.

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