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…
- You’re not alone — most people freak out after watching scary movies, even adults.
- YOU ARE SAFE. You aren’t in any more danger now than you were before… it’s just a movie.
- You won’t feel scared for long. It will soon pass.
- Scary movies are made to scare you, that’s their job.
- 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 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.
- Watch “behind the scenes” videos to take the realness out of the movie, so you see clearly; “It’s just a movie.”
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
Q PLEASE HELP ME!!!
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.
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”
today i just watched “the excorcism of emily rose” and its 2 am and i dont want to go to sleep. i cant get those images and facts (cause its supposed to be a true story) out of my head and when i try to distract myself i just cant…what makes me feel a lot better is knowing that people had already saw the movie and got really scared too and got over it….but i dont know…i just dont want to go to sleep… i have always watched many scary movies but this one is the worst…it really scared me a lot….can anybody help me?
Cuddle up with a big soft toy, and a good novel. You need a consistent distraction. If a thought pops in, give it no importance and just carry on reading.
When you’re ready to sleep, keep your attention in your feet. Try hard to feel every little sensation in your feet.
this is probably going to be very helpful cause i watched 4 extremely scary vids on you tube and havent been getting to sleep very well for about two or three weeks
Hi Babyangel. Sorry to hear you’re having trouble sleeping after the movie. Have a re-read of the article above, it’s all there for you. And there’s more great info in the comments above. Let me know how you get on.
it was the holiday and all my friends are in different countries except me….mum and dad rented a video called Lovely Bones and i hate to say this but when i watched a movie i get all weird i always think it’s going to happen to me especially the girl was murdered the same age as me.I told my mum all about it and my mind was ok all day except night!i just can’t sleep!
I also watched 2012 and i got scared but i was ok with it now…can you help me forget every scary thought!
I just watched “Orphan.” I am trying to desensitize myself to scary movies in time for a big megalodon movie, “Meg,” coming out this year. From what I’ve read in the book series by Steve Alten, it’s like “Jaws” on crack. It will be very cool, but up until recently, I have not watched anything more scary than “Carrie,” which I only watched once. After “Wolfman,” “Unborn,” and now this, a giant shark should be quite cool because I am an animal lover.
Thanks for the tips. I will take them to heart. I am off to pick a funny movie.