Are horror movies bad for your health?

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    Does playing with fear while shivering in front of a screen impact our health and brain? With Halloween, here’s the perfect opportunity to ask the question before a horror movie night.

    Halloween ritual or simple taste for the scary, many of us enjoy shaking in front of a good horror movie, half hidden behind a pillow. But are these feature films beneficial or harmful to health? Isn’t it traumatic to see these bloody scenes? The question was taken very seriously by a team of American psychiatrists in Pennsylvania who shared their answer in a statement this week.

    A beneficial effect on fear

    First thing to know: while the impact obviously depends on each viewer and their sensitivity (we are not talking about children here, for example), experts believe that horror films are not necessarily bad for your health. “It’s called ‘the horror paradox’ because people usually try to avoid things that make them uncomfortable.explains Dr. Ramnarine Boodoo, a child psychiatrist.

    According to the psychiatrist, horror would then help us to face a certain reality of the world by activating our stress mechanisms: “there is an activation of what is called the sympathetic nervous system, which can cause things like increased heart rate and increased respiratory rateexplains Dr. Boodoo. But for psychiatrists, these sensations can be pleasant for some people, because they feel the adrenaline without being in danger. These are cheap emotions.

    Not only that: for scientists, these experiments could over time also act as exposure therapy, precisely to reduce the feeling of fear. “I’ve also found that it can be a form of stress relief for some people ” announces researcher Hannah Nam. In moderate doses, therefore, horror films can take the pressure off. In 2020 a study published in the scientific journal Personality and individual differences has already revealed that horror movie viewers tended to report lower levels of psychological distress in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

    But a negative effect on the young or the sensitive

    Unsurprisingly, though, horror movies aren’t for everyone. First of all among the youngest who can be disturbed by the signals evoked in the films. “Numerous studies have shown that direct and constant exposure – especially in young people – to graphic material decreases empathy and increases aggression.notes Dr. Boodoo in his article. So you really have to be careful about the amount of exposure to that type of stimulus. ”

    Additionally, horror films can have a harmful impact and particularly distress people suffering from PTSD, anxiety disorders, or even heart problems. For experts, therefore, there is no single right answer. The whole thing is to show empathy towards everyone (those who enjoy movies and those who are afraid of them) and not judge yourself. After all, watching a horror movie isn’t a must.

    Why do we like to get scared so much in front of a movie?

    But why do we love scary situations and hemoglobin so much … on screen? Ajay Satpute, another American scientist, specialist in neurology and scholar of fear also deepened on the issue: “In part it depends on the many ways our brain experiences, interprets and contextualizes fear.“advances. Therefore, the mechanisms of fear in the human brain are not only an instinctive set of survival behaviors, but also a subjective experience. And according to him the fear experienced in front of a film can be very different from that experienced in the life of facing a traumatic event.

    The prevailing hypothesis is that there is a core network of fear or core areas of fear (…) that predict fear in all situations“, tells. But in his study, the researcher found that there was not just a web of fears, but different regions of the brain that react to them. According to him, the human brain would then react differently to a horror movie than to a truly deadly situation.

    From this observation, several neurobiological reasons may explain this attraction to scary movies.

    • For some, it is the pursuit of excitement and release that follows when the film breaks. “When you’re scared it’s not great right now, but when it’s gone there is this release and euphoria and it’s really rewarding.“, He explains. “If you really want to have that waking moment in life when all your senses are activated, a little fear can’t hurt. “
    • Another possible explanation for him: scary movies could, in a sense, serve as educational material for the brain. “At least since we started telling stories, we can imagine that it is a way to pass on and learn. In this sense, it is as if the brain uses this information to build mental models that guide our behavior should those situations arise. “

    Being afraid of learning to be afraid and to react? The idea really makes sense. Hoping, however, that no white-masked assassin will really pursue you in the near future …

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