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28th Mar 2024

Psychologist warns it’s a major red flag if you relax by enjoying true crime stories


true crime

Many of us like to relax by watching a true crime documentary

But if you’re one of them you might want to listen up.

A psychologist has suggested that, maybe unsurprisingly, it can be a bit of a red flag if you find it relaxing to hear about horrific murders and crime.

Dr Thema Bryant appeared on The Mel Robbins Podcast to talk about how people can reconnect and heal after experiencing hardship.

Speaking to host Robbins, she revealed that those who watch and listen to violent media may do so because the trauma is familiar to them.

She said: “If your idea of relaxing before you go to sleep is to watch three episodes of Law and Order, [then] I would encourage you to think about ‘why is trauma relaxing to me?’

“That’s what it is. It’s harm, crime, violation, attacks, and that’s what is going to soothe me into my bedtime.”

Dr Bryant explained that some people find this content “normal and familiar.”

She continued: “Some of us grew up in high stress, so people mistake peace for boring. To come home to yourself you have to lean into the discomfort because it’s gonna feel unfamiliar.”

true crime
Credit: Canva

True crime fans explain reasons for viewing

Quite a few people seemed to agree with Dr Bryant’s analysis, and opened up about why they enjoy true crime documentaries.

One person commented: “It distracts me from the pain I’m feeling in my life. I don’t like it, it just redirects my anger.”

Another said: “The trauma isn’t relaxing to me – it’s the justice the characters or real people often get that I never did in my own life.” A third wrote: “Wow that is exactly what I watch to relax. This was so enlightening.”

Other experts also agree with Dr Bryant’s view. Dr Elizabeth Jeglic, a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, told Crime Reads why trauma survivors often find true crime so fascinating.

“Anecdotally, some people are drawn to the study of psychology to understand themselves and heal themselves,” the clinical psychologist said.

“We have many people in psychology programs who have a history of active mental illness.”

She added: “Similarly, I think it might be likely that people who have a history of trauma might be drawn to true crime to kind of re-experience those traumatic situations in a safe environment where they have more control.”