Walking into a room during your lunch break and giving a good cry may seem like a helpful way to de-stress, but experts say there’s little evidence the approach offers long-term benefits for mental health.
Primal scream therapy (PST) was created in the late 1960s by psychologist Arthur Janov. It is based on the idea that neurosis is rooted in repressed childhood traumas and that screaming can help relieve and relieve pain. A bestseller and with high-profile patients including John Lennon and Yoko Ono, the approach became popular in the 1970s.
But modern experts say they have little evidence to support the therapy’s use.
Professor of psychology at the University of Zurich, whose research includes the cognitive and neural mechanisms of sound production and emotional processing. Sascha Frühholz is one of them.
“I think there is no scientific evidence that primitive scream therapy has positive effects in the treatment of mental and psychological disorders. “Given that modern psychotherapy is an evidence-based treatment approach, no serious school of psychotherapy today uses any element of primitive scream therapy.”
“PST is also based on the partially incorrect assumption that traumatic early life events are stored as mental and bodily complexes – like a prison – and can only be resolved by ‘pushing out’ during the screams,” Frühholz added. “There is no scientific evidence for this.”
Frühholz also noted that primitive scream therapy predominantly uses screams of anger, which can backfire.
“We know that such consistent expressions of anger as a therapeutic modality have no effect, even negative effects, on the therapeutic outcome,” he said. “Our own research shows that positive cries – joy and pleasure – are much more relevant to people and promote social bonding as a positive effect.”
Dr Rebecca Semmens-Wheeler, senior lecturer in psychology at Birmingham City University, said she was also dubious about the long-term benefits of screaming for mental health, although she said little research has been done.
“The current situation is that we don’t really know – but based on what we do know, it’s unlikely to help,” he said.
Among her concerns was that screaming or hearing others’ screams could activate the body’s “fight or flight” mechanism, increasing adrenaline and cortisol levels.
“[That] it’s the opposite of what you do with things like meditation or yoga, which usually activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps you slow down, stock up, let the prefrontal cortex take up glucose again… and it helps us do it. better decisions,” he said.
Semmens-Wheeler added that if screaming becomes a habit, it can prevent you from taking other actions that might be more helpful when it comes to dealing with emotions.
But she noted that context is important and screaming can help if done in groups and allow people to bond.
“I’m quite skeptical about the potential benefits, especially in the long term. [But] If you want to do it for laughs, why not?” said. “Maybe you’ll feel fine for a few minutes. But I don’t think it has any potential as a permanent, ongoing treatment. I think it’s more of a novelty.”