There are a lot of ways to cope with anxiety, from exercise and therapy to medication. Whatever way works for you is totally cool, but if you’re still looking for your best coping mechanism, Broadly writer Abby Moss has an unexpected tip for you.
For Abby and apparently a lot of other people, watching horror movies is their best form of coping with anxiety. That’s right — those movies that make some people tense up with fear and racked with emotional distress are exactly the kind of medicine for some people living with anxiety. Abby breaks it down, and it actually makes sense. Here’s what she said:
When I first noticed the effectiveness of this unconventional way of coping with anxiety, I pretty much freaked out: What was I, some kind of psychopath who derives comfort from the suffering of others? Is it just me? I asked on /r/anxiety, the Reddit forum for the topic. Is there something wrong with me?
While horror films aren’t a true alternative to seeking medical help if you need it, I was nevertheless inundated with responses from people saying they’d noticed the same thing. “I too have noticed horror movies make me feel better,” said one user. “It creates a different anxiety, an anxiety that isn’t about me, ya know?”
Makes perfect sense, right? Anxiety is a feeling of worry or fear that’s normal in small amounts every day life, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. For people with anxiety disorder, though, those feelings intensify and won’t go away meaning they can interfere with every day life. Anxiety can lead to panic attacks, interrupt your sleep, make you feel nauseous and interfere with your social life. For a person with anxiety, putting their worries in context while they’re in the middle of a panic attack is very tough, and sometimes impossible. That’s why horror movies help: there’s an obvious worry but it’s not immediate to the person watching. That’s what Dr. Mathias Clasen told Broadly, and what writer Patricia Grisafi explained in her essay for LunaLuna Magazine.
“This disconnect makes perfect sense. After all, coping with real world situations is sometimes intolerable for people with sensitive nervous systems,” Patricia wrote. “Dulling our senses with inexplicable horror and violence just might help a disordered nervous system become more amenable to the everyday crises of life.”
While it stands to reason, this method doesn’t work for everyone. For some, horror movies can increase or intensify anxiety. They might prefer exercise, breathing techniques or listening to music to deal with anxiety. Abby also notes that her anxiety is typically manageable, but that’s not always the case. Some people require therapy or medication to cope.
Whatever method works best for you is the one you should follow, but Abby’s horror movie trick is a pretty cool one.
Related: Research Shows Your Parents Are Totally Clueless About What Stresses You Out