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

FAQ

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.

Best wishes,
Michael Kinnaird

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

  1. Hi. . .My name is Claudia and I am scared to death each night.i don’t even know why but I think I do now:a few nights ago in the weekend I went to my best friends house for a sleepover, I told her about a recent horror movie I saw called the conjuring 👻, at first I thought that I wouldn’t get any nightmares and I didn’t so we decided to watch a horror movie and it was cool and we liked it.and we said that after the horror movie we would watch a few funny and happy movies to drain out the fear of the movie. Then we went to slee. . .in the morning we decided to watch another horror movie called dead silence I thought I would be okay even tho she told me that everyone dies at the end😭😭😭😲😲😲😲 and after we didn’t watch any good movies (which was bad luck) cause my mum came to get me 😭😭 I was shaking, I felt like spouwing up and was freaked out, mum eventually asked me If I was okay and I told her that I was scared then she told me to stop being silly. A few days after that FREAKING movie came to my mind and it scared me alot (because it the conjuring said it was BASED on a true story) and that night I went to bed at 8:00 cause I was very tired and me and ma bestie stayed up till 3:00 in the morning 😣😣so I said good night to mum and went to my bedroom.i read my book for 4 whole hours and tried to get to bed again. . . But I couldn’t cope with being by my self and my brother was awake so I randomly asked if I could sleep with him and he got angry with me and told me to go back to my own bed. . . Soo I went and told mum that I felt sick and I Really did😷😷and she told me to get a sick bole and stay out here for a few minutes soo I did. I started to cry and mum told me to go into her bed and I did got to sleep after that but I awoke with a strange sound and thin I relised it was my cat scraping the door then went back to sleep then woke up in the morning then got ready for school I cried at school cause I was soooooooo scared again. I had a talk with my math teacher and told me I was going to be okay and told me story soo hopefully I get to sleep to nite and do u have any tips for me?

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    1. Hi Claudia, don’t worry, the feeling will fade away. Just remember, the movie is designed to scare adults, so they make these things as full on as possible — you’re not in any actual danger. It’s just a bunch of guys dressed up, wearing make up, or visual effects using a computer. Use all the tips above to help get back to normal. People really love the lullaby tune because it helps change your state from fear to relaxed. They often say it’s based on a true story to make it scarier. Often something unusual happens and then a story gets built up from there. It certainly doesn’t mean it actually happened.

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      1. Thanks for the great reply , but how can I use the
        Laloby because I’m not allowed any electronic devices before I go to bed and if I try to sneek into bringing my phone or tablet with me my parents will get mad with me and I never get told off

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      2. If you explain to your parents that it’s just while you’re getting over the scary movie, they might agree to it. If not, just use the other tips instead. Reading a book is a good one because it distracts your mind. You’re thinking about what’s happening in the book instead of anything else. You could also think about your family, friends, pets, things you love to do.

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  2. My friends convinced me to watch my very first horror movie, The Babadook. If you’ve ever watched it, I hope you understand why it’s unsettling. I can’t shake it from my mind no matter how hard I try. I’ve tried distracting myself but it doesn’t work for long. It’s making me really nervous all the time, and I try to tell myself it’s just a movie and to be calm but my mind won’t listen. How will I be able to sleep tonight? I’ve tried music and comedic videos but nothing seems to help. Please help! I think it may be because I have severe anxiety, so my sensitivity to horror or scary things is very high, but now I can’t sleep and I’m always scared. Please help.

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    1. Hi Elizabeth. Hold on to the thought that no matter how you feel, you’re *not* in danger — it’s just the primitive fear mechanism in your mind. Persist with the music or comedy videos, really rivet your attention on them — immerse yourself in that world completely. In the short term, anxiety and fear causes a lot of adrenaline to be released, so go for a run or jump up and down. Burn off all that excess energy that’s putting you in a heightened state. Remember, these movies are *designed* to scare you. I don’t watch horror movies because I like being happy and not freaked out. If you already have severe anxiety, you definitely don’t want to be watching them either. In future, when you friends suggest watching horror, tell them “no chance”. Be confident and if they still tease you about it, just shrug it off — “whatever”.

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  3. I just saw a video that practilly RUINED one of my favorite games, I never wanna see the “hero’s” face again! Even with these tips it’ll take forever to get it out of my head. I need kitten and puppy photos, NOW!

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    1. Hi Grace, when the thought pops, try to be completely non-reactive to it. This communicates to your brain: “This is unimportant”. As a result, it’ll pop up less, and pass quicker.

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      1. Actually, its not exactly out of my head, but when I think of the scary or gory parts, I don’t freak out as bad. Yay!

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  4. Hi I’m Anique, thanks that you helped to get over my fear of haunted porcelain dolls. I couldn’t sleep thinking of them.

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