Can Scary Movies Actually be Good for Anxiety?

Scary Movies

Gory images that evoke our deepest fears are contrary to what many would consider a remedy to anxiety. Often characterized by gory images, creepy scenes, and fear-evoking plots, scary movies contain all the essential elements to help you manage your emotions.

Read on to discover how scary it can help you overcome anxiety and the effect of this exposure on your brain. 

How your brain manages fear

Anxiety can be best defined as a persistent fear that something terrible will happen. Often, it manifests through negative thoughts over an event we are likely to experience. Sometimes fear catches up with us while preparing for exams and you wonder “who will write my dissertation for me?” Although different events within various individuals trigger fear, the brain similarly processes these stimuli.

The limbic system is responsible for responding to fear-evoking events. When exposed to fear, the amygdala detects your emotions and pumps endorphins to help you maneuver the danger.

The body produces cortisol and adrenaline to spark the fight or flight response. Horror movies trigger the limbic system to respond to frightening situations without exposing you to real danger.

However, the conscious recognizes that these situations are unreal, thus allowing you to regulate your fear. Owing to this exposure, your brain is better equipped to manage fear, therefore helping reduce the intensity of your anxiety.

How do scary movies help manage anxiety?


Since anxiety is nourished by thought, the brain constantly spins adverse events of failure and harm in forthcoming events. As such, we ruminate over what could be and thus create fear of the unknown.

To manage anxiety, it is essential to break the chain of thought by introducing a distraction. Exposure to intense fear from horror movies helps focus your attention, thus stopping your brain from spinning negative thoughts.

Consequentially, you contemplate the plot of the movie, thus helping you do away with fear from other events.


Like any other muscle, the brain can be trained to handle the stimulus from various events. Scary movies allow you to partially experience fear-evoking events, thus developing better responses to unpleasant circumstances.

Since the conscious brain is aware that the threat is unreal, it develops critical and abstract thought. Developing abstract ideas helps you analyze your fears better, thus helping to properly gauge the risk and find a suitable solution to unpleasant events.

Through this, you can separate your thoughts from actual events thus understanding that they cannot cause you pain.

Experience the feelings you wish to avoid

Nobody loves suffering. As such, it is understandable why we may want to avoid events that trigger fear and panic. With horror movies, however, you can induce the emotions you would not wish to experience in real life.

By doing this, you can analyze why various issues cause intense fear and understand that your thoughts are just your future speculations like the movies.

As such, scary movies serve as exposure therapy to events you may never experience.

Stress relief 

Anxiety is often our stress response. When watching movies, you escape your daily routine and forget the events causing you stress. The neurotransmitters and endorphins produced when watching movies help you relax, thus focusing on your activities.

Selecting the right horror movie

Although horror movies can be harnessed towards managing anxiety, diving straight into hardcore horror films is not a great idea. When making an entry into horror movies, start with suspense thrillers like Jurassic Park and Goosebumps.

These not only introduce you to the audio cues of the genre but also help you gauge your tolerance to tormenting plots. After watching some films, you can transition to classic horror films like Frankenstein and later dive into the terrifying world of advanced movies like the conjuring.

A great way to overcome the fear is by starting with horror movies from the early 2000s and late ’90s. Unlike more recent films, these have tons of flaws that remind you that they are not real.

Alternatively, consult various horror movie review platforms and make a bucket list of the films that meet your criteria. Next, watch trailers and sift your list to the few movies which appeal to your taste buds.

Point to note

Although horror movies can be used to overcome anxiety, they are not a replacement for therapy. While horror movies distract you from your fear, therapy seeks the root of your worries to help you better manage stressful situations.

Also, steer clear of films that entail your phobias or revolve around the events which trigger your anxiety. Such films may worsen your episodes and make it harder to overcome your fear. If, for instance, you were involved in a car accident, avoid films that depict crashes as they will refresh your memory and increase your anxiety.

While the goal is to experience scary events, start with gentle exposure to help you prepare for more extreme events. To relieve yourself of the pressure surrounding academics, Thesis Geek blog is a go-to platform for academic insight to gain a study-life balance.

Final verdict

As seen in the article, a nerve-wracking horror film is a potentially great remedy for anxiety. Besides helping relieve your stress, horror movies divert your attention from your worries, thus protecting the brain from ruminating on your fears.

However, ensure to find a sub-genre that suits your taste to commit your full attention to each film.