Horror movies are that special genre of movie that either people hate or love to hate. We shut our eyes, anticipate at what point the monster, ghost or murderer will jump out at us, and we check our pants for yellow stains after we have jumped out of our seats.
I have many friends who refuse to watch these movies with me because they just cannot stand the terror that they have to go through while watching Freddy Krueger stab through a bed. I understand that the anticipation and scare can be a daunting thing for anyone; it is not a feeling that people want to have to live through. I just happen to be addicted to watching horror movies, and they have been helping me cope with depression for years.
Now I am in no way a medical professional. While I do study psychology and have certification as an EMT, that does not mean that I am here to tell you that this is a foolproof treatment that can help everyone.
If you think you are currently suffering from any type of mental illness, then please seek professional help from a licensed therapist or psychiatrist.
I happen to suffer from a type of depression known as seasonal affective disorder, meaning my depression will manifest usually from late fall to early spring when there is less natural light, and the weather is mostly gloomy.
By the way, the change with daylight saving is a pretty big screw up for my mental state.
The biggest thing that depression does to me is that I will get trapped within my head, constantly thinking and over-thinking any thought or situation to the point where I cannot concentrate on seemingly normal tasks, and this wreaked havoc on my school work.
When I finally managed to see a therapist, she came up with a treatment that I never really thought would work. She suggested that I watch horror movies so that I wouldn't have to medicate myself. I'm not a stranger to medications for depression, but the drugs usually left me feeling like a walking zombie with absolutely no emotion whatsoever.
Horror movies cause me to get absorbed in the moment. I can put everything that is on my mind aside because I have to focus solely on what is happening on the screen. This happens more so than with any other genre because the horror movies are designed to make you focus on that anticipation of dread that has become such a cliche.
As soon as I get into the movie, everything else in the world can drop away as I await the chainsaw wielding maniac to come running out of nowhere.
The next thing that horror movies do is release an incredible amount of adrenaline and dopamine into your system. Adrenaline is the hormone that your body secretes during moments of stress that causes your heart to start racing, palms to become sweaty, blood pressure to rise and you to become more alert.
All of this commonly comes together in what is known as the fight or flight response, gearing you to suddenly react to something that might attack you. It is also a pretty addicting feeling that leads to cases of adrenaline junkies. Combining that with dopamine, known as the feel-good hormone that activates the reward centers of the brain, means that when a lot of my friends shy away from the jump scares, I get hooked on the feeling of bliss that I feel after the scare is over.
This all combines to combat a real empty feeling that comes with my depression. I don't have to take a pill that manages levels of neurotransmitters when the seasonal affective disorder starts to creep up. Now all I have to do is make sure I take a nice long walk when the sun is out, and then I sit down and turn on a good horror movie, leaving the lights on of course. The last time I watched a horror movie with the lights off, my sister crept into the room and scared me so badly that we had to get the couch reupholstered.