Loading...

How Horror Films Help Individuals Cope With Scary Situations

October 27, 2021 by Alexa Hornbeck
(A still from the 2018 edition of "Halloween" Photo by Ryan Green - © Universal Pictures)

WASHINGTON — A study funded by the Research Program for Media, Communication, and Society at the School of Communication and Culture at Aarhus University in Denmark reveals how watching horror films may have helped individuals cope and prepare for the psychological distress of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“My colleagues and I have been talking in the past about how horror can act as a stress simulation, in a way that you practice your response to threats, and learn how to act under pressure and deal with those things we typically avoid in everyday life,” said Coltan Scrivner, the lead author of the study, during a phone interview with The Well News.

“The pandemic offered this strangely interesting way to study this question we had for a while of whether horror fans actually deal with scary and uncertain situations in the real world better than non-horror fans,” continued Scrivner.

To conduct the study Scrivner and researchers recruited 310 individuals in April and May, 2020, consisting of horror fans and non-horror fans, equally distributed across age and gender and administered a series of online questionnaires.  

The questionnaires were used to evaluate the participant’s psychological resilience, personality, morbid curiosity and preparedness for the pandemic. 

To test whether a participant was morbidly curious, questions were asked such as whether the participant would be interested in attending an autopsy,  had an interest in the occult or if they would like a job as a criminal profiler.

Questions were also asked about what movie genres the participants watched the most and if they had ever seen a pandemic-related film, known as a ‘prepper’ film, which usually involves an apocalypse, zombies or an alien invasion. 

Participants were also tested on their preparedness for the pandemic such as what supplies they bought.

“People who scored higher were more interested in prepper genres and reported not only better psychological resilience, but they felt like they knew what they needed to do. Maybe the toilet paper rush was an exception,” joked Scrivner. 

Scrivner said that horror fans have practiced the art of regulating feelings of anxiety and fear in a safe setting and when it came to the real-world pandemic they could return to that practice. 

“The films portrayed an upheaval in the social world where the social infrastructure begins to break down, which is a screen representation of what was going on in the real world,” said Scrivner. 

In general, the study shows how morbidly curious people exhibited greater positive resilience during COVID-19. 

“Basically, watching at least one pandemic film was related to psychological resilience,” said Scrivner. 

Scrivner said in this way horror films could serve as a kind of  ‘home-brewed’ exposure therapy, in which viewers can draw upon the same strategies used in clinical exposure therapies, which use simulations to help individuals overcome conditions like PTSD, social anxiety, or phobias. 

His experiments surrounding horror don’t stop with films as Scrivner is currently developing a study by measuring people’s heart rates as they go through a haunted house to understand how the body can predict how bad things will get in the face of fear. 

“I’m working on lots of different projects relating to the broad realm of scary play, why people scare themselves for fun, and what it can do for you,” said Scrivner. 

Alexa can be reached at alexa@thewellnews.com 

In The News

Health

Voting

Mental Health

June 22, 2022
by Alexa Hornbeck
Behavioral Health Providers Scramble to Prepare for Launch of 988 Crisis Line

WASHINGTON — Americans seeking assistance in a mental health crisis will soon be able to dial 988 for help starting... Read More

WASHINGTON — Americans seeking assistance in a mental health crisis will soon be able to dial 988 for help starting July 16, but concerns are mounting as to whether behavioral health providers are equipped with the tools necessary to implement the launch. “It’s a national program... Read More

June 16, 2022
by Alexa Hornbeck
Report Examines Effect of Puberty Blockers and Cross-Sex Hormones on Youth Suicide Rates

WASHINGTON — A report released by the Heritage Foundation on June 13 examines whether easing teenagers’ access to cross-sex medical... Read More

WASHINGTON — A report released by the Heritage Foundation on June 13 examines whether easing teenagers’ access to cross-sex medical interventions, such as puberty blockers and hormones, protects against adolescent suicide. “Unfortunately, many parents are being told they have a choice between a living son or... Read More

June 8, 2022
by Alexa Hornbeck
Telehealth Services For Abortion Pills Prepare for Roe v. Wade Outcome

WASHINGTON — Telehealth service providers offering abortion pills by mail have been preparing for service changes that could occur by... Read More

WASHINGTON — Telehealth service providers offering abortion pills by mail have been preparing for service changes that could occur by the end of the month if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, a legal case which has protected abortion rights in the United States... Read More

June 1, 2022
by Alexa Hornbeck
HHS to Fund Center Focused on Social Media Use and Youth Mental Health

WASHINGTON — The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, will... Read More

WASHINGTON — The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, will soon direct millions in funds towards examining the impact of social media use on the mental health of teens and children. “Social media can be associated... Read More

May 25, 2022
by Alexa Hornbeck
Removal of a DEA Training Requirement Would Eliminate Treatment Barriers for OUD Providers

WASHINGTON — The House Committee on Energy and Commerce recently voted to advance provisions of two bills which would eliminate... Read More

WASHINGTON — The House Committee on Energy and Commerce recently voted to advance provisions of two bills which would eliminate special DEA licensing and expand baseline education for treatment providers who prescribe buprenorphine — a medication approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat those... Read More

April 14, 2022
by Alexa Hornbeck
Rep. Alma Adams Holds Forum on Black Maternal Health

WASHINGTON — Rep. Alma Adams, D-N.C., hosted a forum on Wednesday on Black maternal health to highlight the efforts being... Read More

WASHINGTON — Rep. Alma Adams, D-N.C., hosted a forum on Wednesday on Black maternal health to highlight the efforts being made to address reproductive issues in the U.S. for women of color. The forum aligns with Black Maternal Health Week which is observed from April 11-17.... Read More

News From The Well