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The Unexpected Way I Cope With My Anxiety

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To some people, horror is often connected with anxiety, but not in the way I am writing about. People never quite understand why I use horror-based media as a coping mechanism when I’m having trouble with my anxiety. For me, it makes perfect sense.

To clarify, I understand that horror media might not be best for all people with various anxiety disorders. I know that when I was younger I would never dare watch horror films out of fear of losing sleep and going day to day with paranoid thoughts. However, now in my adulthood, something has changed within my mind. I still get scared by horror films, but now I’m a huge horror fan instead!

To give more of an insight into myself, I feel as if I have two forms of anxiety. The first is simpler and mildly explainable. This type of anxiety is caused by something in my life, deadlines, worry about how I’m perceived by others I know, maybe even just external stimuli overloading me. I know the root and I can explain it. In this case, watching a horror film serves as a good distraction in cases when I can’t deal with the problem directly. The intensity of horror trumps most other genres as a distraction, and often the added element of mystery and surprise can take my mind away from  these thoughts.

My second form of anxiety is not so simple. It comes out of nowhere most the time, I feel the fear and nervousness before I even have any thoughts running through my head. Left alone with it, I end up adding thoughts and ideas to the anxiety, causing the anxiety to get worse as it’s mixed with the first type I described. These days it’s somewhat controlled by my medication, but it’s always something that can hit me at any time. In this case, watching horror replaces my out of nowhere, uncontrolled anxiety, with a form of fear caused by the horror media. I hesitate to cause the feeling I get from this media as “anxiety,” because it feels different. It’s harder for my brain to manipulate and distort, it’s easier to get rid of (just following the horror up with something “cutesy” helps me), and it’s more controlled (I choose when to turn on the media or turn it off).

I should clarify that what I hope to achieve with this article is an understanding of a coping mechanism. I am not in any way saying this is the only way to cope with anxiety. People should be aware that in some cases, horror films may make things worse. I believe an understanding of yourself, your reaction to these things and your conditions, are all needed to decide if this mechanism is right for you. I sincerely hope others can find mechanisms that work for them as well as this works for me.

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Thinkstock photo via MaryLB.

Originally published: August 10, 2017
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