De-stress yourself with horror flicks
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De-stress yourself with horror flicks

Post by on Monday, May 30, 2022

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How about a ghost rambling around the garden while you are binge-watching Netflix at night? You stood to grab some snacks to soothe your mid-night carvings and booh!

Ghosts partying in the kitchen; you are the only human stuck in there, scary? or amusing?

'Fear' is naturally depicted as an aversive emotion, and humans have an inherent desire to flee from it. However, recent psychological research has compelled psychologists and neuroscientists to reanalyze how they define it.

There is consensus that some people feel less stressed after watching horror flicks. Multiple theories propound the same.

Let us find out the reasons -


1.      Catharsis as an explanation

Catharsis is a method that cleanses our negative emotions, introduced by Aristotle. Watching horror movies burns and expels our aggressive and negative emotions. 

Secondly, Psychoanalysis considers 'fear' as a negative manifestation in the human mind. Accordingly, fear emerges from the primitive Id. Horror movies highlight the unconscious dread and apprehension that resides profoundly inside the unconscious. Watching scary movies helps in furloughing deep settled anxiety and fear. Ths was the Greek term employed by Aristotle to keenly explain how the performing arts can purge the negative emotions. It's a dynamic method continuously used by humans all the way around.


  2.  Distraction / escape

Jocelyn McDonnell, a therapist and associate of the cognitive behavioral therapy group at The Family Institute at Northwestern University, described that it is hard for people with anxiety issues to think calmly, and their realm of thought is speeding. It is difficult for individuals with anxiety issues to endure at the moment; they often dwell over the past and agonize about the tomorrow.

Thus such films can work as a distraction for such individuals. It distracts them from their complex life problems.

You may illustrate it as channeling the consciousness to a different stimulus that reduces the anxiety and offers relief. In the same scenario, these films can also be an escape for people trying to avoid aversive emotions and feelings.


 3. Exposure therapy

Persistent vulnerability to anxious and fearful situations allows individuals to acclimate to such circumstances, while it also allows them to resolve deep settled issues and uncanny emotions.

Exposure therapy is a type of therapy in which the client is exposed to fearful stimuli that is manageable. It's presented with the aim- of instructing the client to handle the threat. It also helps in harnessing emotional resilience. APA defines it as a psychological treatment  that was developed to help people confront their fears and similarly these horror films work in the same way. This behavioral therapy is used on patients to help them to overcome the irrational fears, phobias and anxiety. For example if you are scared of an object , you tend to avoid it .When you watch triggering movies and scenes it prepares you for the future and helps you in easing in response to the stimuli.


4. Physiological reasons

Heart rate increase and respiration increase are typical responses any individual can exhibit while anxious or in fear. While you watch horror flicks, it arouses your Sympathetic nervous system, and the rush of adrenaline activates. The amygdala in our brain becomes aroused, and it triggers our anxiety. Humans depict flight or fight response after prompting. When we watch horror flicks we often experience an adrenaline rush in the whole body , which boosts our immune system. A study also supports the fact that when anyone watches the horror movie there is an increase in the wbc( white blood cells) activites. Similar study has exemplified that watching horror movies can burn almost 200 calories at a time which is equivalent to 30 minutes’ walk.


5. Emotion Theory

The emotion theory states that our interpretation of the physiological cues may vary depending upon the individual. For most people, scary movies increase their heartbeats and breathing rate: an adrenaline rush. And those who feel it is really scary will be distressed. Nonetheless these movies help us in coping with our anxiety in certain ways. While watching horror films our brain releases certain neurotransmitters which can energize our brain activity and makes us extra alert. They also help us to prepare for several situations in our daily life. Emotional changes are constructed through these movies and they are good for relationships as while watching them our brain releases certain chemicals like dopamine and serotonin. These are the hormones that are activated whenever we fall in love with someone.


6. Free enjoyment complex

Multiple types of research suggest that fear/ anxious stimuli that are scary or stressful may provide a confidence boost. Multiple studies conducted by eminent psychologists suggest that fear-inducing events or activities can help in coping with diverse stressors by reducing the brain's neurochemical reactions to fear-inducing stimuli. The immediate environment where we exist does not prepare us to deal with extreme situations. These flicks stimulate and trigger our Di ribose nucleic acid  (Dna) that's present deep inside you (scoopwhoop, n.d.)



7. Give a sense of control-

While watching any horror film, our amygdala recognizes the fear, and in such a safe and controlled environment, negative emotions are experienced. Relief from watching the movies is because there is a clear source of fear/anxiety that is manageable. In real situations, the stressors can be of varied intensity. It prepares to deal with intense stressors. It helps in getting rid of the stress but Personal experiences would definitely determine how significant side-effects become.



8. Desensitization

You must have read about this technique that cures phobias and certain elements that cause anxiety. Horror movies dispose of distressing and anxious situations. For example, if you have a phobia of furry objects, horror movies systematically dispose of the stressful stimuli, and it helps to ease your fear regarding the stressful stimuli. Desensitization as a method is used by the practitioner to introduce the triggering stimuli in an increasing manner and thus letting the patient normalize against one level of triggering stressor.



Way forward

These theories clearly stating why horror movies make people feel less stressed. But there are diverse side effects and individual differences. Watching horror movies may develop anxiety, sleeplessness, phobias and behavioral changes. We already know about the correlations between violent tv serials and the students.

Studies conducted on anxiety similarly suggest that it may increase due to stressors and maybe even conditioned in people.

 Thus, too much binge-watching may give you anxiety issues rather than relieving your stress. It may develop irrational fears and may give anxiety issues

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