Highlights

  • Scream therapy can be used with more traditional forms of therapy
  • Screaming out loud can be a means of catharsis
  • Screaming while watching a horror movie helps to express suppressed emotions and fears

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Explained | Screaming your lungs out might be therapeutic

Arthur Janov popularised the notion that screaming could have therapeutic benefits, in the 1970s. He was notable for having two famous patients: John Lennon and Yoko Ono.

Screaming out loud can be a means of catharsis! When pent-up, repressed emotions are released in the form of loud screams and howls, it brings about a sense of temporary relief. This is the crux of scream therapy formalized by American psychotherapist and writer Dr. Arthur Janov in the 1970s. Dr. Janov believed that mental-health issues or neuroses in adulthood stemmed from repressed childhood trauma or primal pain and this trauma or pain could be released by screaming, under the guidance of a therapist.

Famous practitioners

The two most famous clients of Dr. Janov were a popular couple of the 70s' John Lennon and Yoko Ono.

Screaming whilst watching horror movies

“Horror films don’t create fear, they release it.”
American filmmaker and master of the horror genre, Wes Craven had famously stated this in an interview in 1991. Screaming out loud while watching a horror movie helps us to express suppressed emotions and fears. Researchers at Oaklee Psychotherapy in San Francisco believe that during a stressful film, humans intentionally expose themselves to anxiety-producing stimuli. This helps manage stress in the moment and this practice can translate to better stress and fear management in the long run.

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Rise of rage rooms

Rage rooms, also known as scream rooms or anger rooms, have opened in cities around the world, and they offer a safe place for people to literally scream and express their anger. According to Vice, the first rage room opened in Japan in 2008, when the country’s economy had fallen into recession.

But are they helpful?

Deputy Head of Psychology at the University of Central Lancashire says that humans intuitively feel that releasing pent-up rage should help to achieve a sense of balance and allow them to regulate their emotions. However, research in this area has provided mixed findings. In some cases, acting aggressively in order to release negative emotions can actually make them feel worse. In fact, by using a ‘rage room,’ they could be conditioning themselves to become aggressive the next time they feel stressed, angry or frustrated.

Criticisms and concerns

According to a critical piece by journalist Oliver Hotham for the Vice, several specialists, over the years, have argued against the efficacy of primal scream therapy as a formal treatment. The main point of criticism remains that this therapy only offers temporary catharsis without any processing.

Before trying a self-led scream-therapy session, we would advise you to consider doing so with the guidance of a therapist. It can be a tool for finding additional ways of looking after yourself and to release and process emotions. After all, feelings are best dealt with rather than kept bottled up inside.

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