Ever since I was a little kid, I knew something was a little off. I had some pretty extreme nervous tendencies. If someone yelled at me, I would shake and cry. If I didn’t do something right, I would make myself crazy trying to correct it, or else I would have a nervous breakdown. I would ruminate over and over in my mind different scenarios of what people thought of me about something trivial I did a year prior and how they probably hate me for it.
When it’s out of control and I begin to spiral, the physical symptoms seep in like a burglar creeping into your home in the middle of the night at your most vulnerable. The flushed feeling in your face and hands. The heart palpatations. The dizzy and lightheaded feelings where your legs are about to give out at any second. Then, you feel you can’t breathe. You try and catch a breath but the air hunger is strong. Hyperventilating is a massive bitch. The first time it happened to me I didn’t even realize I was doing it- that’s how sneaky it can be, and I ended up at the hospital because I had managed to paralyze the right side of my body. I was frozen in time until a kind nurse taught me the savior breathing techniques that many turn to when those feelings begin creeping in. The breathing
This is the monster that is anxiety and panic disorder, and only one tried and true thing can ever ground me when I’m having one of those “off days”. Taking some deep breaths and good ol’ comforting horror movies. If you struggle, sit back, hear me out, because it’s time to take your anxiety medicine.
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year. The past few years have been ROUGH to say the very least and an explosion of anxiety disorders have become a pandemic of its own. In 2020, women experienced an almost 30% increase in major depressive disorders and an almost 28% increase in anxiety disorders worldwide, while men saw increases of 24% and 22%, respectively. Overall, women were twice as likely to experience major depressive disorder than men. Due to the heightened fears and anxieties from damn near almost everyone, myself included, most are wanting to stay indoors, avoid populated areas, and cut themselves off from society itself. That being the case, I can understand why those already suffering prior to the world basically crumbling, are struggling even more so than ever before.
Personally speaking, I’m on the autistic spectrum and suffer from severe anxiety and panic disorder with PTSD and hyperventilation syndrome. Like many others, I worry about my health and have death anxiety, which is not all that uncommon and the past few years have been a fucking nightmare. From as early as my diaper days, I was obsessed with horror movies. And when I experience an episode or begin to spiral out, a hefty dose of comfort horror is my medicine of choice. Whether it’s Chucky telling Kyle to “Shut up and drive, before he kicks her fuckin’ teeth in”, or a sampling of Freddy “welcoming Jennifer to Prime Time“, the horrors on the television are a safety net from the horror of reality and a fine form of escapism.
Plus, it’s a good chuckle sometimes too. As ridiculous as this is, can anyone honestly say they can be scared after this?
Horror movies for me have always been an escape into a familiar fantasy. This type of mind-numbing exit into horror derealization has always been my own way of coping with my anxiety issues; in general, horror films shroud me with a sense of comfort and familiarity.
Sitting down with some old favorites rings my bells of nostalgia and offers a great distraction. Like remembering the first time, at four, I saw Silver Bullet, or my first introduction to Haddonfield’s finest escaped maniac. The obsessive thoughts and lingering anxieties that run like a hamster on a wheel in my head dwindle down to a minimal, if not disappear altogether. Oh man, when those feel-good fuzzies hit, it’s hard to feel nothing other than a calming sense of relief and peacefulness I can only describe as my phantom Xanax with Horror Nostalgia becoming my drug of choice.
Movies, especially those of the slasher genre like Freddy and Chucky, are what I like to refer to as “fantastical horror”; as in, “This shit would never happen in the real world,” (I totally made up that sub-genre term). The more fantastic and crazy the premise, the easier it is to escape into this wonderful world of imagination of talking killer dolls, or an unstoppable force of brutality that dons a hockey mask with no explanation of how he came back from the dead, and furthermore died as a child and is now some undead 7-foot guy throwing a machete around. Horror films are that security blanket or that teddy bear you had as a child and cling onto in times of stress when no one else is around.
As a final punch to the anxiety beast, with every slasher horror film, there’s a villain and hero, right? As it usually goes with the horror film formula, the monster comes face to face with the main protagonist who loves to give them one hell of a time in the final showdown. Facing your anxiety head-on by welcoming it, telling it to do its thing, and then fuck off for the day, can be beneficial. The way I see it, the hero is in comparison to you and the evil force is that bastard anxiety monster. So seeing the horror hero/heroine go against the odds by facing their fears encourages me to relax some and take my control back.
Of course, it doesn’t always come as easy in the heat of the moment to remember to turn your back on your anxiety, the way Nancy memorably vanquished Freddy. And as perfectly exampled here in this clip, the monster never truly dies because there is no TRUE cure for this other than using the best tools you have at your disposal, but you live to fight another day by taking your power back, and hey, that’s really all you can do.
I did my time in nursing school, but I’m no doctor here and don’t claim to be. Everyone who suffers from some sort of anxiety alignment or relative issues has different remedies that work for them. I here am simply offering my own story of taking something I cherish deeply and turning it into a therapeutic refuge in stressful times and as someone with a platform here, I feel it’s important that you know you are not alone in this. So if you can relate in any way, take another look at the wonderful world of the horror genre as a way to escape and free yourself from the anxieties of the world that is more horrifying than any film you can put in front of me.
If this resonates with any of you nostalgic nuggets, drop a line below, and let’s get the discussion going!