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The Psychological Effects of Watching Scary Movies

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there can be many psychological effects when you watch scary movies Scott Griessel/Creatista/PhotoSpin

Halloween has become synonymous with a non-stop stream of horror movies playing on basic and premium cable channels. Many people enjoy a good fright flick this time of year, and some people can’t get spooked enough.

There’s been a great deal of media coverage relating to the effects horror movies can have on children — such as nightmares and desensitization to violence — but there’s seemingly less interest in how this pastime affects adults. While scary movies can cause problems for some people, the effects aren’t all bad.

Exhilaration and risk taking

While you might recognize the difference between a movie and real life, the distinction is a bit more evasive for your body. When you watch a character round a corner, escape a monster, or defend herself, odds are good that your heart rate goes up, your blood pressure elevates, and you get an adrenaline rush. When the suspense is over, you may feel a sense of exhilaration.

Periodic risk taking and adventure are correlated with greater happiness and life satisfaction, and some people — known as sensation-seeking personalities — crave novelty, adventure, and a bit of danger. Watching an occasional horror movie may provide the same benefits as risk-taking behavior, making you feel more alive.

Even better, sensation-seeking sorts can feel like risk takers when they watch horror movies without having to actually endanger themselves. Anxiety-inducing situations can spark feelings of satisfaction and even sexual arousal, so next time date night rolls around, grab a blanket and propose watching a scary movie.


Repeatedly watching gory horror movies can desensitize a person to violence, which could theoretically alter a person’s behavior. People who watch horror movies might, for example, feel that there’s more violence in the world than there actually is or believe that violence is sometimes acceptable for solving interpersonal conflicts.

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Nice write up. I personally hate scary movies. Used to like them as a kid but have come to not really enjoy them as I have gotten older.

October 24, 2012 - 11:13am
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