How re-watching movies and TV shows helps those with anxiety

As a kid, I used to find comfort in re-watching movies and TV shows. I've lost count of the times I've watched "The Little Mermaid," "Wizard of Oz" and old "Full House" and "Boy Meets World" episodes. 

When I became an adult, I stopped doing this (with the exception of watching the "Barbie" movie three times this year). With such an overload of media, it feels impossible to keep up-to-date with everything I want to watch, let alone have time to re-watch old stuff. 

But, I've found that when I'm feeling depressed or particularly anxious, I will revert to that old childhood habit of watching movies and shows I've already seen. And, when I'm feeling like this, sometimes watching something new will actually make me feel worse. 

I know I'm not alone; it's a common phenomenon for people with anxiety to re-watch movies and TV series, re-read books, and re-listen to podcasts. But why is that? I think it's because their familiarity provides comfort. There are no surprises; we already know we love it because we've already seen it.

There's nothing worse, in the midst of an anxiety attack, to watch a new movie, and you end up HATING it. Or, even worse, a dog or a cat dies in the movie. Even when the movie is good, you may be too anxious or sad to pay attention to it, so you zone out during entire scenes and have no clue what's happening. 

So, it makes sense that someone with anxiety would find comfort in this routine. When someone watches the same show multiple times, their brains process it easier than it would something new, according to The Guest House treatment facility

"Their cognitive abilities are constantly cluttered by their worries. They have less cognition to give to any activity. Re-watching a show takes their brain less focus and cognitive effort to achieve the same effect," they write.

For me, after the death of my godmother, life in general has felt uncertain and out of my control. As a result, the only reprieve I've had is while watching movies/shows I've already seen and reading books I've already read. Maybe it's because it's the only thing that feels predictable to me right now. 

I don't have the mental capacity to get to know new characters or follow along with new plots. Instead, I want to catch up with characters who feel like old friends, and I want to know that everything will work out for them at the end of the movie or episode. I know that Dorothy will, in fact, go home after clicking her heels together. I know Sam and Dean from "Supernatural" will defeat that vampire, werewolf, demon, etc. And I know that Kevin McCallister will outwit the burglars in "Home Alone." 

"Nostalgia can lend us much-needed context, perspective and direction, reminding and reassuring us that our life is not as banal as it may seem. It also tells us that there have been, and once again will be, meaningful moments and experiences," psychologist Neel Burton told the Huffington Post

So, if you are rewatching something, don't feel like it's a waste of time. Just like sleeping isn't a waste of time, rewatching something has a way of re-energizing us after we feel depleted. And, doing something that makes you feel better — I would never consider that a waste of time. We all have different ways of coping, and I think anything that makes your life even the slightest bit easier is worth it. 

What are your favorite movies and TV shows to rewatch? 

Some of mine are "Never Been Kissed," "The Holiday," "13 Going on 30," "Freaky Friday," any of the "Spiderman" movies, and, of course, "Wizard of Oz." Let me know in the comments what yours are! 

Here are some of the answers I got from you on social media:

- "The Nightmare Before Christmas"
- "The Birdcage"
- "The Choice"
- "The Longest Yard"
- "Gilmore Girls"
- "Schitt's Creek"
- "New Girl"
- "How I Met Your Mother"
- "Parks and Rec"
- "Friends"
- "The Office"
- "Fleabag"

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