The Quick Report

10 Reasons Psychologists Say Horror Movie Fans Are Healthier People

Horror movie fans seem to have a bad reputation by default. After all, what kind of people actually enjoy such dark and twisted films? But in reality, psychology shows us that watching horror films can make you a healthier person. Here are 10 reasons that psychologists say that being a horror movie fan can actually make you a better, more well-adjusted person!

10. They Provide Relief and Distraction

Man with a Bowl of Popcorn Watching TV at Home
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio

There is enough “horror” going on in the real world that is fed to us through the news. Horror movies offer a good fictional distraction that allows us to escape real-world horrors. It’s basic stress relief. Although we are trading one horror for another, the on-screen horror is one we can control. It’s a kind of, “If you think your day is bad…”

9. They Boost Coping Skills

man, male, adult
Photo by Sammy-Sander

Horror movies have a way of provoking the audience to talk to the screen. Don’t open that door. Check the back seat. Run! We watch what the characters do and consider what we’d do differently to survive. We live the moment vicariously, and it gets our brains thinking about how to cope.

8. They Increase Resilience

woman sitting on red folding armchair
Photo by Karen Zhao

Characters in many horror films are forced to use the same strategies a psychologist would advise for resilience. The situation has changed for the worse. They must adapt. Focus on the things within their control. Build relationships and work together. They can’t ignore their problems and have to learn from their mistakes. They must remain optimistic. Practice mindfulness, perhaps saying a prayer.

7. They Offer Us a Sense of Control 

man, tv, watching
Photo by Sammy-Sander

The difference between real-life horrors and fictional horror on-screen is that the latter is something we can control. We know what we’re watching isn’t going to actually harm us. We can close our eyes, look away, or leave the room at any time. It gets our brain thinking about how we can control things in our own environment and life.

6. They Let Us Explore Our Fears Safely

a person standing in front of a giant spider
Photo by Vadim Bogulov

What are you afraid of? Horror films often take universal fears to the extreme. Viewers can view a frightening situation without personal risk or harm. They can observe how the character deals with the situation. In turn, they can explore their own feelings. Ask themselves: What would I do? It’s very similar to exposure therapy.

5. They Improve Our Self-Confidence

person standing on wooden bridge
Photo by Benjamin Davies

When we watch a horror movie, we experience every moment along with the characters. We think through every wrong and right decision made by the hero. We tell ourselves we’d make the same correct decisions while assuring ourselves we’d never make the same wrong ones. At the end of the movie, we walk away with more self-confidence gained.

4. They Enhance Brain Activity and Cognitive Functions

People Wearing 3d Glasses Sitting on Red Chairs
Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko

Horror movies stimulate multiple brain regions, including those responsible for fear, reasoning, and planning. As anxiety heightens on-screen, the brain’s visual and auditory regions increase activity. When people become engaged in a horror film, their brain analyzes along with the main character, trying to predict what the villain will do next and how to avoid it. This enhances problem-solving skills.


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3. They Increase Our Tolerance of Others


One way civilizations have demonized others as an enemy has been to dehumanize them. However, when a horror tale presents a sympathetic monster (as in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein novel), we must question what defines a monster. When we stop seeing others as monsters, we can sympathetically view them for their humanity.

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2. They Increase Sympathy and Empathy

person, human, girl
Photo by Pezibear

Horror movies often play on the theme of innocent victims either finding themselves in the wrong situation or accidentally starting a nightmarish chain of events. These themes can make us think about the injustice happening to others around us. It can make us more likely to speak up or step up in the face of wrongdoing.

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1. They Aid in Personal Growth and Self-Discovery

2 women sitting on blue leather chair holding white and red plastic cups
Photo by Felipe Bustillo

Even if you’re unaware, the vicarious engagement in a horror film makes your conscious and subconscious minds ponder extreme and challenging situations. Deep questions arise about values, beliefs, survival, and mortality. Moral boundaries, crucial decisions in life-and-death situations, what defines humanity, and what being civilized means all come into question. Exploring these can lead to self-discovery and personal growth.

Read More: 10 Historical Myths the Movies Taught Us