Psychologist Says It’s A Major Red Flag If You Like Relaxing With True Crime Stories

Psychologist Says It’s A Major Red Flag If You Like Relaxing With True Crime Stories TikTok/Mel Robbins | iStock/Hiraman

Pretty much everyone I know is obsessed with true crime. I feel like everyone in the world is, actually. There’s a reason why series like “Serial,” “Making a Murderer,” and “The Staircase” (among dozens of others) have been so popular. And while the stories behind the headlines are legitimately horrifying, there’s something about digging into the details in such a detached way that many people find, I dunno… distracting? Relaxing? Whatever adjective you use, psychologist Dr. Thema Bryant says that if you enjoy unwinding with true crime, that’s a serious red flag.

Talking to host Mel Robbins on “The Mel Robbins Podcast,” Dr. Thema suggested that people who find true crime podcasts, documentaries, and books relaxing could be seriously messed up in the head. While she was on the show to talk about healing after hard times, she did mention that people who take violent media in their stride may have experienced their own trauma that needs to be dealt with.

“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’?” Dr. Bryant said. “Some of us grew up in high-stress [situations], so people mistake peace for boring. To come home to yourself you have to lean into the discomfort because it’s gonna feel unfamiliar.”


If your idea of “relaxing” before bed is watching a few episodes of Law & Order (or any other #truecrime show), listen up. This was just ONE of the many incredible mic drop moments 🎤 and knowledge bombs 💣 that @Dr Thema Bryant drops on the melrobbinspodcast. Listen now!! 👉 “6 Signs You’re Disconnected From Your Power and How to Get It Back: Life-Changing Advice From the Remarkable Dr. Thema Bryant” 🔗 in bio #melrobbins #podcast #trauma #traumatok #healing #bingewatching

♬ original sound – Mel Robbins

She suggested that those who relate to the above — you find true crime more bizarrely comforting than disturbing — you should go and seek therapy.

Of course, people on social media didn’t take too kindly to the doctor’s opinions, insisting that she doesn’t really get it.

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

However, there were some who agreed with the general principle behind Dr. Thema’s words. “Constantly feeding your subconscious mind graphic content DOES affect your mood and mindset. it’s impossible to heal that way,” one person remarked. Another commenter added, “Damn. This really hits home. I used to watch so much chaos on TV, but after working hard on myself for the past two years I just can’t anymore.”

Jennifer Still is a writer and editor with more than 10 years of experience. The managing editor of Bolde, she has bylines in Vanity Fair, Business Insider, The New York Times, Glamour, Bon Appetit, and many more. You can follow her on Twitter @jenniferlstill