The mental health implications of ‘true crime’ content

The past few years has seen an explosion of content surrounding true crime, to the point that that obsession is now the subject of a famous TV show – Only Murders in the Building. But is this interest unhealthy? Can you be drawn towards darker tendencies by consuming such shows?

Experts say it is nothing to be worried about as it’s just curiosity. The appeal of such shows seems to be to find out what goes on in the minds of killers and what makes them commit the crimes they are accused of.

A 2010 study showed that women are primary consumers of true crime content – they seem to view such shows as educational content that might help them understand potential predators and avoid them.

While consuming in moderation is perfectly healthy, you might want to evaluate if your consumption is very high. A 2020 research showed that people actively consuming crime news/content reported being more paranoid about crime, regardless of local crime rates. Being aware of how you feel as you consume such content may be important.

Over-consuming such content might make you feel that serial killers are always lurking around, adding an unnecessary sense of doom. Another thing to keep in mind is that crime shows usually cherry-pick the most unusual cases and dramatize them heavily. This leads to a distorted idea of how the average crimes play out and might lead to avoidable paranoia, high alert, and hypervigilance. Such feelings can often lead to stress-related illnesses if not kept in check.

The body has a fight-or-flight response controlled by the sympathetic nervous system. It gets activated during stressful situations and results in the release of stress hormones. Such a response helps in avoiding a physical threat. Chronic exposure to such stresses, possibly by over-exposure to crime shows, can lead to mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. Listening to terrifying stories before bedtime can cause nightmares and result in sleep deprivation issues.

If a person faces any of the above problems, they might need to re-think their content consumption habits. Seeking help from a mental health professional might be recommended in such situations.

In moderation, however, it remains a perfectly normal habit. Remember to switch to lighter content as soon as true crime content brings you down!


  1. Cleveland Clinic. “Is Your Love of True Crime Impacting Your Mental Health?,” July 9, 2021.
  2. Volpe, Allie. “Your True Crime Obsession Could Be Hurting Your Mental Health.” Vice (blog), April 12, 2021.
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