Why Murder Alleviates Anxiety & An Exploration of Grief

I was sent a quote that read something like: ‘My anxiety is bad today so let me chug an energy drink and binge a show about murder to ease it”. It seems ridiculous, right? Actually, I find that when I am feeling anxious or emotional, intense true crime shows or podcasts do help alleviate those strong feelings.

I have always wondered, why is that?

Think about it. Over the summer, I had someone I cared about deeply and was ‘my person’, exit my life in an abrupt and traumatic way. It shattered my existence and was a very challenging adjustment to make. This loss was unexpected, and I had a slew of other stressors occurring simultaneously. It was months before I could read a book or watch a show that had anything to do with human connections or any kind of fictional storyline. That content was just triggering. Anything I tried to engage with, I would find him, or it would remind me of something we shared that I associated with him.

Grief is one of those human experiences that consumes you fully. Moving the brain out of a moment of grief is so difficult at times. It is ok to be sad. It is also ok to feel it. Being able to move through that is so important.

The approach that most aided in this adjustment was redirecting myself. Anytime I was experiencing strong emotions (mostly grief or frustration), or I instinctively went to reach out to tell him something about my day, or I was just struggling and ruminating, I would force myself to do another activity. I made a list of things to do and would just pick one and do it. Some examples were: texting a friend whatever I wanted to tell him, painting, organizing, diamond painting, playing video games, going running, etc. I had no shortage of ways to occupy my mind and transfer to a better headspace.

Most frequently, I found myself putting on a documentary or podcast about true crime or missing persons cases. I was endlessly amazed at how this quickly and effectively alleviated whatever emotional struggle I found myself in. Once I was through my crisis and survival mode era, I reflected on the why this method was successful.

The conclusion I ultimately drew was that when we are in a crisis or experiencing intense emotion, we are in our emotional brain that is reacting usually impulsively or childlike to a trigger. Once we have passed that moment, we return to our logical brain of rational thought. Part of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Mindfulness work is training yourself to spend limited amounts of time in your emotional brain and being able to activate the logical brain before responding. Basically, becoming less impulsively reactive and more emotionally regulated. I realized that for me at least, the true crime and missing persons cases were essentially forcing my brain to focus on the facts and information being given, thus taking me out of that emotional state and moving my essence back into my logical brain. It seems counterproductive but it really is effective.

Now if you are someone who has a low tolerance for that topic, maybe find another nonfiction topic to choose. Such as: animal or travel documentaries, archaeology, history, science, etc. The options are limitless. The data and facts are what the brain needs in those moments, it doesn’t seem to matter much what topic it is.

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Favorite True Crime Documentaries & Podcasts

Netflix: I Am A Killer, Vatican Girl: The Disappearance of Emanuela Orlandi, Unsolved Mysteries, 48 Hours, Forensic Files, Murdaugh Murders, Catching Killers, Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel, Night Stalker, John Wayne Gacy Tapes, The Texas Killing Fields, anything with archeology.

Podcasts: Disappearances with Sarah Turney, Kalyn’s Coffee Talk, Voices for Justice, PsychHoes, Cold, Popcorn Psychology.

– Most streaming services have a ‘true crime’ section.
-I personally don’t prefer documentaries with excessive dramatizations, I just want the facts.

Comment below your thoughts or some of your favorite media or books that have led you through a rough time.

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