Why Watching Scary Horror Movies for Halloween May Help …

During this time I continued to meditate daily, monitor my anxiety symptoms, and studied my heart rate before, during, and after watching the films. To ensure the experiment was as effective as possible I chose five films that have genuinely terrified me in recent years. I chose a few movies that feature specific triggers for my anxiety, such as social violence, claustrophobic environments, and individuals experiencing fatal allergic reactions. Here’s how it went.

Day One: The Conjuring

Featuring a family tormented by a malevolent spirit after moving to a new home, this movie is stacked full of atmospheric spookiness and satisfying jump scares that make for a fun watch. Its also relatively absent of any specific triggers for my anxiety. As a potential result, I didnt experience a single symptom of anxiety during my enjoyment of the film. If anything, I felt suitably distracted from my anxiety while watching it.

As Raichbach suggests, this may be because I already think of watching horror films as being a fun pastime. As he says, Like any other enjoyable activity, seeing a horror movie can function as an escape. Im surprised to discover that Im incredibly relaxed following the movie even more so than before I started watching it.

Heart Rate: 76 bpm before, 88 bpm during, 70 bpm after

Day Two: Hereditary

As an asthmatic with a nut allergy, the film features an especially challenging scene that triggers some major anxiety and causes me some mental and physical discomfort. While viewing this scene (and for several minutes following it), I actually experience some shortness of breath and feel physically restless.

However, the eerie build-up to the films horrifying finale is enough to distract me from these symptoms. Before long, I noticed that my heart was no longer pounding over real-life concerns, but instead over the twists and turns of the plot. I felt unexpectedly calm following the film. The tense scenes built up anxiety and I felt relief when they were over, just as Raichbach indicated may happen.

Heart Rate: 72 bpm before, 92bpm during, 58bpm after

Day Three: Eden Lake

This British horror flick follows a young couple whose romantic vacation turns harrowing when theyre hunted and tortured by a gang of local youths. The film is relentlessly tense, bleak, and violent its also so realistic that it triggers some intense anxiety surrounding some of my own real-life experiences.

I experienced intense nausea during several scenes as well as other physical symptoms of GAD, such as pins and needles and heart palpitations. As a result, the film left me feeling distinctly unsettled and even heightened my anxiety symptoms after I shut off the television, to the point where I experienced trouble sleeping.

Heart Rate: 68 bpm before, 77bpm during, 90bpm after

Day Four: The Strangers

Despite still feeling unsettled and extremely anxious from the day before, I decided to follow up Eden Lake with another movie about a couple being hunted down and tortured. For whatever reason, The Strangers feels less realistic than Eden Lake, which makes the movie far more entertaining for me. This time, I dont experience a single symptom of GAD.

Instead, the film provides a safe experience to engage with my fear and alleviates some of my lingering symptoms from the day before. I was able to enjoy that psychological distance between myself and the narrative that Raichbach informed me can make a scary movie feel so gratifying. Subsequently, I felt far less anxious following the movie than before it.

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Why Watching Scary Horror Movies for Halloween May Help …

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Reviewed and Recommended by Erik Baquero
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