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How Horror Films Help Me Cope With My Anxiety

My passion for the horror genre has been around for as long ago as I can remember. An early memory revolves around a season two episode of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” in which Buffy is admitted to a hospital where a frightening demon is hunting down sick children. There was something about the vulnerability of a sick child and the menace of a creature that would feed on them that resonated with me heavily at the time.

Since that fateful evening in 1998, my love for the macabre and all things horror began to snowball. I became obsessed with classic horror franchises — “A Nightmare On Elm Street” and “Halloween” in particular really piqued my ghoulish interests. My mother was never supportive of my fascination with horror, and understandably so, but this made it difficult to rent what I wanted. And so, I would convince my well-meaning father into renting what I wanted on our weekends together. And it was together with my dad that I began falling in love with a genre so many reviled. There was just something about horror that sparked my creative engines in a way no other genre of content could.

Cut to the eleventh grade — a time where I finally began to understand what really set me apart from my peers, my passion in life: creative writing. Thanks to a handful of supportive teachers at the arts high school I attended, I began to understand my love for horror was not just a morbid fascination, but a true indicator of what I was passionate about — what I was good at. My creative work — while not always strictly horror — is and was always in some way inspired by the tropes of the macabre that fascinated me so heavily in my youth.

My creative work began to act as my strongest weapon against the true horrors of my anxiety disorder, a struggle I had perceived as a plague until around this time. This is when I realized my anxiety, just like horror, could be used as a creative tool.

Since I was a child I’ve coped with anxiety and phobia, so it’s no wonder my mother and so many other of the adults in my life tried to keep me away from a genre they perhaps perceived as triggering. It’s why I felt somewhat ashamed of my passion until adulthood when I began to realize horror was not my trigger, but instead my creative muse. The horror genre and my anxiety disorder would both become invaluable creative tools.

Horror allowed me to step out of the shadows and switch tables with the dark, menacing thoughts, which kept me so nervous during my childhood. I could reverse the effect and take on any role I chose: from the viewpoint of the monster in the “Friday the 13th” series to the feminine heroines of my favorite 90s slasher flicks, which empowered me as a young homosexual in a world which so often looked down on queer themes and effeminate values.

Now I’m an adult I have a stronger sense of what anxiety means to me. And I can look back fondly and understand that just because a genre of content was frightening, it didn’t mean it was having a negative impact on my mental health. Many of my peers who also have a shared passion for horror are also exceptionally creative people who have coped with anxiety and depression their whole lives. What we all agree upon is that the catharsis of horror holds a meaning to us, which is almost impossible to describe but it’s something we wouldn’t give up for the world.

Horror has the ability to lift the veil between the known and the unknown. And what we find on the other side is often gruesome, terrible and frightening – engaging with it is a whole lot less unsettling than just ignoring it all together.

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Thinkstock photo via Grandfailure