For some reason when I’m sick or feeling depressed, there’s only one thing I want to watch: A Nightmare on Elm Street. I lay down on the couch for hours going through the series, and when it’s over, I always feel strangely relieved and relaxed. I’ve never had any idea why, but as it turns out, I’m not alone. Horror movies are not for everyone, but for some of us, they help us, not hurt us.
1. They help us form stronger bonds
When we feel more intense emotions, like fear, we feel more powerful hormones that cause those moments to stick in our brain. Because those memories are stored, we also hold on to the people we are with. We are social and emotional creatures who need each other in times of stress. We remember those who were with us in those stressful moments and we more naturally form a closer bond with them.
2. They make us less afraid of our real-life bad guys
When you watch a scary movie, you project your own demons into the bad guy on screen. We are watching our own version of evil. When that evil is defeated, we feel relieved and strong. We become more confident in dealing with our day-to-day demons.
3. They’re a safer way for us to thrill-seek
In the 1980s, the Type T personality was coined to describe people who are inherently thrill-seekers. Those of us who are Type T are biologically predisposed due to our chemical make up to want to take risks and be scared. The desire for thrill can be dangerous, but a scary movie is an ultimately non-threatening risk. It’s a good way for a Type T to satiate their desire in a safer way.
4. They can help us combat depression
The relief we feel at the end of a horror movie comes from a rise in dopamine. It’s the reason why a lot of us laugh or smile after we’ve just had a big scare. Recent research shows that, while low serotonin was usually blamed for depression, depression can also be caused by low dopamine levels. Those who experience depression might find a little relief in indulging in a horror movie every now and again.
5. They make us feel more confident
When we make it through the end of a haunted house or scary movie or any scary experience, we experience an adrenaline rush. Our mind essentially prepares for fight or flight. By watching the movie straight through, we are fighting the reaction to flee. When you make it all the way through, you get a self-esteem boost. You made it through. You are just that strong.
6. They help us burn calories
While it’s not the equivalent of a Cross-Fit workout, a scary movie does burn calories. According to a study by the University of Westminster, the average 90 minute scary movie burns around 113 calories, or about as much as you would burn by a half-hour walk. The highest burning films were The Shining at 184 calories, Jaws at 161, and The Exorcist at 158. So next time you’re considering a light workout, just pop in The Shining instead.