How to get rid of fear and scary thoughts after watching a scary movie

Just a movie…

A lot of feedback from our unwanted thoughts post was from young people scared half to death from watching scary movies.

So here’s some specifics for that particular problem. This was the actual list I sent a young girl so scared she slept with a bible.

I’ve kept this post very short to get to the solutions straight away…

Know this:

  1. You’re not alone — most people freak out after watching scary movies, even adults.
  2. YOU ARE SAFE. You aren’t in any more danger now than you were before… it’s just a movie.
  3. You won’t feel scared for long. It will soon pass.
  4. Scary movies are made to scare you, that’s their job.
  5. Part of your mind can’t tell the difference between a movie and real life. It’s THIS part that freaks out, but YOU know… it’s just a movie. Because of this, it’s best to be careful what you feed your mind — what you watch, think and imagine!

Do this:

  1. Do some exercise: You are in a “fight or flight” state so act it out — dance or run about, jog on the spot, do star jumps, skip, have a pillow fight, do some shadow boxing or press ups… whatever.
  2. Watch “behind the scenes” videos to take the realness out of the movie, so you see clearly; “It’s just a movie.”
  3. Do what you can to feel safe: Be with people. Get lots of hugs from your parents, friends, even a pet or a big cuddly toy. Use a night-light.
  4. Keep your mind distracted: Watch comedy, get absorbed in a good book, listen to relaxing music, anything you can to distract your mind. Each time a thought comes up, remind yourself  “It’s just a movie” and distract.
  5. To help you sleep, play the famous lullaby tune by Brahms below. Relaxing soundtracks like waves crashing on the beach would also be very good. Then when it’s time to sleep, use this relaxation technique: Put all your attention into your feet, feel your feet tingling and relax them, then move through every part of your body doing the same thing until you fall asleep.

“I want to say that a while ago I saw this article, it was the night after I saw a scary movie. I haven’t really thought about it since like, 3 months ago! This really helps!”— Katie, USA



A  If you follow all the tips in the article as best you can, that’s the fastest way to get back to normal. It’s all there, everything you need to know and do. Please leave a comment below if you’re having trouble following the advice.

Q  Why am I sooooo scared just from watching a movie?

A  Your mind reacts instinctively to perceived danger and changes your physical and mental state in order to deal with the danger — the “fight or flight” state. We evolved in nature where danger was real, like lions, and your brain still works that way. More about this →

Q  Why am I hearing noises in my house after watching scary movies?

A  If your mind thinks “danger,” your body changes to a “fight or flight” state. One of these changes is that you notice sounds that you normally wouldn’t notice. Your house always makes these sounds but you normally filter them out.

Q  Why are my friends better at watching scary movies than I am?

A  We’re all different. If you were to measure fear reaction in you and all your friends, you would get what is called a “normal distribution.” Most people would be somewhere in the middle, a few would not be affected at all and a few would have an over-reaction. There’s lots of reasons why you react like you do… genetics, previous experiences, beliefs, sensitivity etc. Everyone is different.

Q  If my friends are watching a scary movie, I have to go along or I will be left out. What should I do?

A  Go along if you want to, but don’t get sucked into it. Keep moving your attention away and back, away and back… like… look at objects in the room, notice the objects in the background of the movie rather than on the action, look to see how your friends freak out at the really scary bits :-) And you can keep remembering “that’s just a guy wearing make-up,” “just back a bit is the camera crew and director.” All sort of tricks like this to “keep it real.”

If the music builds up and you know there’s a scare coming, close your eyes or hide behind a pillow! Lots of people do it and the rest will be too absorbed to see what you’re doing.

A few fluttery moments of thrill are what you want from a movie. Losing sleep over it means it wasn’t worth it.

You could take your own DVDs to sleepovers, and see if a great comedy can tempt people away from horror. If you know in advance it’s going to be a horror marathon, you could just skip the event. Your friends won’t ditch you over one blow-off, and you get to spend time with them you actually enjoy.

If you’re REALLY sensitive and know you can’t handle it, then just say “No thanks.”

Q  Why can’t I sleep after watching a scary movie?

A  As you settle down to sleep, there are no distractions for your mind, it’s just you and your thoughts. It seems as though you are looking at your thoughts through a big magnifying glass.

Whatever you fear, you will be reminded of — it’s just a primitive part of your mind protecting you against what you saw as danger. If you react with anxiety to your thoughts, your body makes adrenaline as part of the “fight or flight” reaction. This will keep you awake and stop you sleeping. Then a vicious cycle of more thinking, more anxiety and so on.

To prevent this happening, you need another focus and to stay relaxed. To do this, play the famous lullaby tune as soon as you get into bed. Put your attention on the music. This will give your mind something to focus on and the calming effect of the music will help you relax. When it’s time to sleep, use the relaxation technique (tip 5) to keep your mind off scary thoughts.

If you wake in the night, remember, “it’s just a movie, no real danger” and then immediately use the relaxation technique again until you go back to sleep.

Q  What about movies that are based on true stories?

A  Saying a movie is based on actual events is just a way to get you more scared. An unusual event is often used to make unquestioned false assumptions, distorted, and then built upon further to end up with a story that has zero truth in it. In short, you can safely assume that no scary movie is true. It’s just a silly movie.

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Michael Kinnaird is the author of Happy Guide, the result of a 20 year exploration into what works for health and happiness.

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440 thoughts on “How to get rid of fear and scary thoughts after watching a scary movie

  1. help i read scary comic about nandi bear pls don’t eat my brain i don’t want go to kenya now i can’t sleep ahh kerit is very scary


    1. Hi Liling, just follow the tips in the article, it’s the quickest way to get back to feeling normal. It doesn’t matter if it’s a scary movie or a comic, it’s basically the same advice. And remember, you’re not actually in danger — it’s just a silly comic. :-)


  2. I can’t take horror movies so I’ve never seen one, but a single picture of the fugly scary nun from Conjuring 2 popping up on my Twitter timeline was enough to traumatize me. I was a jumpy, terrified mess for weeks after the incident. The thing that helped me was watching a funny scare prank video where someone dressed as the nun jumped out at people and a guy got so scared that he threw his water bottle at the nun, hitting her square in the face. I laughed and I remembered this video every time the actual nun that scared me came to mind.


  3. Hello. Two months ago during a damp hot summer night i had a very terrifying nightmare (and i was not totally asleep because i can recall that i thought it was not a dream or nightmare but all true, yet it actually was a dream i guess. I am not sure yet) it was about the ghosts and satan and the screaming from them like “you say you are not with the temple anymore” or something like that. Believe me i can’t recall or even make sure what was that. I was terrified. So i began to sweat and freak out hard. It was 2 2 or 3 am and the worst thing was soon after that two cockroaches (which are quite normal to wander around during summer nights) fell right over me in bed from the ceiling. I am 35 and i had never ever such an accident in bed. I turned on the light and killed them with papers. Since that night i am SO SCARED that all my mind is just occupied by the thought. I am just wondering why did such a thing happen? I am just a nice woman with God in my thought. All my family members love God so do I. We just love God and the only God who is the creator. The creator of beauty (although the world is not beautiful. However that is due to our own mistakes i believe). So this thought i can’t get rid of. It’s so terrifying that all my breast and neck fore and back is hurting and it gets worse wheni surf the youtube for some fun and good movies yet suddenly my eyes catch the videos which are being advertised for such scary movies about ghosts and satan…. Recently i have had guilt pains as well. I can’t make sure what i do is right or wrong. I try to avoid lies and cheating yet sometimes you can’t make sure if during a dispute you are rigt or wrong. I sued a dentist lately who carried out an orthodontic maltreatment on my teeeth it was also partly my fault. I sued him and i am afraid what should i do if the court punishes him while it was partly my fault too. I told the court all all all the truth though. Please pray that i will forget this thought. I pray that all of people who are doing good and have God’s path as their light (telling the truth and avoidance from cheating) will be fine. Amen


      1. dear James Thank you so much. I read the article. it gets even worse when some youtube channels show some horrific videos of real stories with that horror content. I will try to avoid looking at the titles. ok? thank you again. do you think I will be fine again? I will try my best. also recently I have suffered from lots of stress. I am worried about my dear family members and the child I will one day have after I will marry one day. I will need to try hard to keep such stressful thoughts away


      2. You’re very welcome. Yes, you will be fine Sarah. Decide to consistently ignore/not care about everything to do with this subject. This is what will communicate to your subconscious that the “danger” (even though there never actually was any) has passed. Incidentally, living in the past or the future isn’t generally conducive to happiness. Living in the moment — this moment– is :-) In your case I recommend reading the Happy Guide book. It only takes about an hour and will tell you how to setup your life so that you’re happy, healthy, relaxed and “in the moment.” It’s the best thing you can ever do for yourself :-)

        Best wishes,


  4. I watched a sifi movie about how the world will be like in a few years. And now I’m scared about it every time I rest on my pillow I just start thinking about clips of the movie.


    1. Hi Isabella, stick to the advice in the article above as well as you can. It’s all good advice and is the best way to get back to feeling calm and safe. And don’t forget, it’s just a movie — nothing has actually changed :-)


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