Do Horror Movies Negatively Impact Our Mental Health In The Long Run?

White Frame Corner
White Frame Corner

How Horror Movies Exploit Mental Health Disorders

Most horror and thriller films follow the tried-and-tested formula of a mentally tormented killer or dead soul terrorizing human beings. Specifically, in slasher films, the killer emerges from a mental asylum and embarks on a killing spree.

Popular culture depictions of mental illness mostly center around the commonly fascinating but misunderstood severe mental health disorders like:

– Schizophrenia – Personality disorders – Dissociative identity disorders – Psychopathy – Sociopathy – Suicide – Necrophilia, etc.

In the last two decades, films have emerged that sensitively and realistically portray mental health conditions like anxiety, depression, eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders, etc. 

However, the major gamut of horror movies churned out of the major film industries across the world—think Mama (2013), Psycho (1960), The Halloween franchise, The Grudge franchise, The Haunting of Hill House (2018), etc.—has fed off stereotypical perceptions of the mentally ill.

Their mental illnesses are sensationalized to account for the horrors that emerge in the wake of their abnormal thought and behavior patterns.

How Horror Movies Affect Your Physical Health

– A surge of hormones such as  cortisol and adrenaline – Panic responses from the autonomic nervous system – Pupil dilation – Increased heart rate – Increased blood pressure – Muscle tension – Headaches, etc.

Cinematic works in the horror genre can trigger physiological conditions like:

How Horror Movies Affect Your Mental Health

– Anxiety sensitivity – Intensified negative emotions – Heightened pathological fears – Poor sleep – Persistent nightmares – Acute psychotic symptoms (like hallucinations) – Nausea, etc.

As per research, the psychological effects of horror movies are:

The Positive Effects of Horror Films

Watching horror movies can help one combat one’s fears of loneliness, darkness, etc. 

More recently, “scream therapy” or “scream meditation” has come into vogue to treat mental health issues related to neurosis, psychosis, and trauma disorders.

Tips for Healthy Viewing of Horror Films

– Figure out the subgenres of horror movies you like

– Consider spoilers to help you choose the better horror film

– Understand the shortcomings in your health conditions while viewing horror movies

– Set limits to your viewing

– Develop a habit to disengage yourself from the contents of the movie

– Take mini breaks during viewing

– Consider watching horror movies during the day or with lights on at night or in a group to minimize the impact of horror

Are all horror movies bad?

While experts have cautioned against the negative effects of horror movies on mental health, they have also acknowledged that viewing these works mindfully, optimally, and cautiously can be beneficial to both your mental health and ability to enjoy quality entertainment.

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