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. Hi Jake,

    What it all comes down to is NOT thinking about the movie. You do this by either not thinking about anything at all or thinking about something else.

    Most people find it hard to think about nothing so actively thinking about something else (in other words DISTRACTING) is the best way to go. As well as the thought distraction, it’s comforting to be around people you like and trust, it adds to your feeling of safety and security. So what you described is perfect and very good advice :-)

    Thinking about something funny is a good one because laughing actually alters your physiology (your inner state).

    When you watch something scary, there’s a little part of your brain that doesn’t know it’s not real, so it puts you in ‘danger’ mode – what most of us call ‘freaked out’.

    Laughing effectively tells your mind and body ‘there’s no danger, everything’s ok’. In fact, laughing releases endorphins which make us feel good. People who laugh regularly live longer and are happier, so it’s a great thing to do anyway…

    So don’t watch scary movies and DO hang out with people you like, trust and laugh with :-)


  2. oops i didnt get to finish i literaly just found another way to get rid of scary thoughts and that is to go on a walk with a parent(or close friend, teacher, preist, etc), comepletly blank your mind, and talk about something exiting that is coming up or a funny memory. It is also very helpfull to use the tips you provided (belive me it helps so much!)
    please get back to me on this (it is good to talk to someone else about this problem!)

    Jake DeMark


  3. I just watched the movie zombie land and it is really creeping me out! The night after i saw it i didnt go to sleep! Hopefully your tips will help.

    thanks sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo much!!!!!!!!!!


  4. Hi Emily & Nicole, your comments came in together and you have the same email address, so I’m guessing you’re sisters that watched this scary movie together, right? :-)

    First of all… don’t watch scary movies!!

    There’s a part of your brain that can’t detect it’s not real, so it puts you on ‘spooked’ and ‘alert’ mode. But remember what Mike says in the article above, you are in no more danger now than before you watched the movie. ie. you are in NO danger because the movie isn’t real.

    Emily, you are half way there, that’s great. What you described is perfect, just keep laughing at it because none of it is real. It’s all just actors dressing up and pretending to do stuff that looks scary when you play scary music over the top of it.

    When a scary thought from the movie pops into your head, just remember it’s just that weird little part of your brain that doesn’t know the movie isn’t real. But YOU know it’s not real! So just distract your mind onto something else, think about your favorite thing to do and think about how warm and happy you feel when you’re doing it.

    At first, you might have to do this several times but as time goes on, memories of the movie will stop popping in your head and one day you will say to each other: ‘Hey do you remember when we got scared of that movie?’ and laugh about it. :-)

    Also, keep re-reading this page. There’s lots more great advice in the actual article and these comments.

    Take care and remember girls, you’re safe! It’s just a stoopid movie :-)


  5. hi im 11 and well i watched a scary movie (paranormal activity) and it has been like idk 3 days and im really freaked i pray and sleep with a roseary and in my parents room but im still scared and mad at myself cause im not suposed to belive in that stuff but im scared and i want to know 4 how long i will be scared ????


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