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I’ve been a horror movie fan since as far back as I could remember. Sure, they scared the crap out of me at times when I was a kid, and even a bit now, but I always kept coming back to them and always enjoyed the feelings elicited while watching them. I just came across some research by pure accident that suggests watching scary movies is not only good for physical health but mental health as well.

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The Research

Right away I did what I always do when I hear new information, I feel it out and remain open minded. Yes, I was skeptical at first but the more I dug, the more things made sense. The general belief out there is that these movies are not healthy for you and often activate denser energies within the body. I have to say that I agree in some ways, but at the same time I never felt any negative effects personally other than the phobias I created in my own head about the girl from The Exorcist.

Immune Boost

A study performed on 32 males and females revealed some very interesting things about scary movies and how they affect our body.[1]

Researchers found increases in white blood cells which left viewers better equipped to fight disease and repair the body. This means watching scary movies actually boosts your immune system.

It’s Like Exercise

In another study, researchers found that watching scary movies was also great exercise. A single viewing of various movies tested revealed that you can burn around 200 calories depending on the movie.[2]

We Love Getting Scared

brucecampbell Researchers also suggest that we are able to experience positive and negative feelings at the same time. In this case, one might view being scared as negative, while viewing having a good time as being positive. Research has shown that people LOVE getting scared. So while they are being scared, they are actually having a great time and their body’s are secreting chemicals that prove the experience.

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Research suggests it is obvious that what is taking place on the screen has no connection with reality and therefore does not arouse traumatic situations. In fact, watching what is happening on screen can actually strengthen the counteraction of the development of phobias. As the brain senses danger it produces additional energy directed at the activeness of neurotransmitters – glutamate, dopamine and serotonin. As a result, the body remains in a state of combat readiness for some time.

Another interesting factor is that a potential threat signal passes through the brain, specifically through the hypothalamus. Since the hypothalamus deals with the glandular system, it initiates the release of  adrenaline which causes the release of opiates which in turn creates an anesthetic type effect. This causes the phobic reaction to shut down and trains the brain to have a similar reaction in real life situations. In a sense, watching a horror movie is almost like a training ground for the body and psyche.

Even the National Institute of Mental Health suggests watching scary movies only creates small levels of stress which is considered harmless.

Dealing With Our Fears

Research done by Dr. Mathias Clasen suggests watching horror movies is great for our DNA as although we have memory deep down to deal with situations that may frighten us, our current environments often don’t put us in that state. Watching a horror movie acts as an emotional simulator for this and triggers our DNA to respond.

In my opinion, having the memory or experience of something scaring you can also be a breeding ground for you to face and overcome your own fears as well. From my personal experience of dealing with some of my fears around horror movies, it has created a level of confidence in facing things that scare me and has allowed me to navigate my mind and emotions more clearly  in other areas of my life.

The Other Side To The Coin

Now of course there is always a flip side to a story, in this case based on anecdotal evidence alone, horror movies can cause disruptions in sleep patterns and can cause increased fear in certain situations if the mind relates the fear back to a movie it has previously seen. We can also be triggered by things in real life at times if they have happened in a scary movie we watched.

Some suggest that scary movies, more so slasher films, desensitize us to violence at times. Although the scientific evidence doesn’t suggest this, in fact it suggests the brain knows the difference and is actually better prepared in real life situations, there might still be something to be said about this.

Final Thoughts

I feel that like anything, it comes down to each of us when it comes to the negatives here. There’s a lot of people I know who would suggest scary movies are bad for you, your psyche and create a denser vibration. While there may be partial truth to some of this, I think it comes down to us. We can allow the images, sounds and scenes to terrify us and we can build it up in our minds, fear it and let it take over, or we can choose to work to go beyond them. I don’t say this only as a fan of horror movies but because I feel that we are capable of these things and our fears only happen within the mind anyway -which of course isn’t who we are.

For me, just writing this article has inspired me to fully face the exorcist girl fear I have. After all, it’s only going to help me deal with more fears in the future.

But what do you think? Have any other thoughts? Would love to hear more about this topic from you.

Sources:

1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12637206

2. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/9638876/Watching-horror-films-burns-nearly-200-calories-a-time.html

3. http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/stress/index.shtml

http://sciencenordic.com/your-dna-loves-horror-movies


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