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Is Screaming Therapy A Real Thing?

Written by Sarah Norman

Review by Alina Ivan

Tagged in

  • stress


May 25, 2023, 6 min read

We like to look into the new and varied forms of therapy available to treat specific mental health issues so you get the best, most up-to-date information on the therapies that might work for you. This time we’re putting screaming therapy under the microscope; what is it? Is it real? And why might someone benefit from it?

If you are struggling with feelings of stress or anger and considering screaming therapy, we’re breaking down everything you need to know about this less traditional, slightly louder form of therapy.

At Augmentive, we aim to provide holistic, tailored mental health support to everyone so they can live their life to the fullest, so if you have questions about types of therapy, we’re here to help.

What is screaming therapy?

Screaming therapy has become more popular in recent years, and is sometimes referred to as ‘primal screaming therapy’ or ‘primal therapy’. During this type of therapy, people are encouraged to express their thoughts and feelings freely through screaming in a safe environment. This might mean talking about feelings, crying, shouting, or making sounds. People engaging in screaming therapy may experience the release of repressed emotions.

Is screaming therapy a real thing?

Although it may seem a little extreme, screaming therapy is very much a real thing. It originated from the 1970 book The Primal Scream by Arthur Janov. Janov was the US psychologist who originated screaming therapy, and though it has been around for many years, it has gained popularity recently.

There has been an increase in ‘rage rooms’ in recent years, which allow people to visit a safe and enclosed space, put on a pair of safety goggles, and break objects in a room, from TVs to mirrors and many more fragile items. The idea behind the practice is that by doing so (and screaming, if you feel like it!) you can release some of the pent-up rage inside of you.

What is involved in screaming therapy?

Outside of the rage room concept, screaming therapy as a modality for therapy consists of different stages; the regression stage, the release stage, the integration stage, and the resolution stage.

  • Regression: During this stage, if you are engaging in screaming therapy you may relive traumatic experiences from your past, which can bring up some of the same feelings you felt when the incidents were happening.
  • Release: In this stage, you are encouraged to express emotions as they bubble to the surface, which can mean shouting, crying or screaming, if you feel moved to do so. Initially this may feel awkward or uncomfortable, but after a while it should become easier and you may start to feel repressed emotions release.
  • Integration: In this stage, you are encouraged to piece together areas of your life story and make connections between different life events and their consequences. Doing so can help with feelings of forgiveness towards yourself and others.
  • Resolution: In the final stage, you will hopefully feel a sense of closure when it comes to the experiences brought up during screaming therapy.

Why might someone benefit from screaming therapy?

Screaming therapy can be used to help people with a range of mental health issues. For those who suffer from things like anxiety, depression and anger issues, screaming therapy could provide a way to release some of the associated emotions.

In addition, it is thought screaming therapy can help to ease some of the physical symptoms that occur when someone has stress caused by repressed emotions. Physical symptoms of stress can include ulcers, headaches, back pain, hives, and more.

Why do we get the urge to scream?

It would seem there are a few different reasons human beings scream. Most studies on screaming have focused on screams of anguish, but one 2021 study — which involved recording screams in a small, padded room — identified six distinct types of scream; pain, anger, fear, joy, passion and sadness.

A scream of fear is designed to scare away predators, and when you are unable to fight or run away, this is essentially evolution’s last attempt at fending off danger. Alternatively, a scream of pain can be a cry for help or a general way we express physical or mental injury.

This theory is supported by a study published in the journal of Current Biology suggesting when we hear screams, they activate our brain’s fear circuitry to act as a cautionary signal. So hearing a scream makes us instantly alert to potential danger, but what about when someone produces a scream? There is little research to explain why this happens.

Screaming therapy seems to have become popular during the pandemic, and this is thought to be because many people felt confined to their homes. These restrictive circumstances may also have created an urge to scream in some people.

What does screaming therapy do to your body?

Besides the obvious possibility that screaming therapy could affect your vocal cords if you do it too much, there is also the question of what screaming can do inside our bodies.

It is thought that screaming therapy can release endorphins, which are chemicals in the body that reduce stress. These endorphins interact with our brain’s receptors which create a positive feeling in the body. Keep in mind, although screaming therapy can trigger the release of endorphins and reduce stress, there are other, less intense ways to do this too.  

Can screaming therapy actually help?

The short answer is maybe. Screaming therapy tends to provide an immediate release of emotions, but there does seem to be a lack of research into whether or not it can be used as a form of therapy to produce long-term results for those suffering from mental health issues.

It is believed that instead of screaming or physically expressing anger, a more constructive approach may be to reflect on its underlying causes, consider if your reaction is appropriate or proportionate, and think about how you could respond to improve your situation.

Keep in mind some psychology professionals believe screaming therapy isn’t helpful. Professor Sascha Frühholz at the University of Zurich has stated there is no scientific evidence behind screaming therapy, and no indication it can offer any positive effects when it comes to treating mental health conditions. Screaming therapy could even be counterintuitive, since screaming and hearing screams can activate the body’s ‘fight or flight’ mode, which will raise adrenaline and cortisol in the body.

However, others believe it can provide results, with many good examples of people using it effectively to improve their symptoms.

“I was increasingly aware of how much stress and anxiety I was building up… My children were at home, suddenly cut off from their friends at nursery and the outside world and they didn’t have many ways to articulate their own anxiety and anger around their situation. We would sit in the car and scream. Or we would run around the garden and scream. Or we would run up and down the stairs screaming… I wanted to create a space where they could express any frustration and stress about their situation...” - Professor Pragya Agarwal, Behaviour and data scientist

Should I try screaming therapy?

Despite the lack of scientific evidence to support its effectiveness, when it comes to screaming therapy there are few reasons you could benefit from it as a short term stress release solution or a fun activity — as long as your neighbours don’t mind!

Be mindful that some psychologists believe scream therapy taps into feelings of anger and, as a result, could have negative effects on the therapeutic outcome. You may feel some immediate relief and relaxation, but the likelihood you will experience lasting positive effects is low, and other more traditional therapies may be more effective.

Screaming therapy is a low-risk activity so if you do want to try it you can, but do keep in mind this is not a traditional form of therapy, and doesn’t have quite enough science to back up its effectiveness — only anecdotal evidence. Although screaming therapy can be facilitated by a therapist, they are more likely to recommend other more traditional forms of therapy with proven results before recommending this one.

How to cope if you’re struggling with stress or anger

If you are having issues with stress or anger, and screaming helps you to release some of this energy or frustration, there is no reason you can’t try it out. However, screaming into your pillow alone is unlikely to help. Instead, seek out a therapist who can talk you through some useful steps, or look for a therapist who can use other science and research-backed tools to help you process the root of your frustration. This may be screaming therapy, or it may be something else.

If you are unsure of what type of therapy could work for you or who you should be speaking to, remember our free 15 minute consultation can match you with the best specialist to help with the exact issues you are looking to address.

Whether you’re feeling off-kilter or want to shake up your routine, our state-of-the-art mental wellbeing platform gives you quick and seamless access to world-class support on your terms, from private mental health assessments and reviews, to finding qualified and approved mental health professionals for the support you need: join us today.

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