Jade Small
Jade Small
April 7, 2024 ·  6 min read

‘Relaxing’ By Listening to True Crime Podcasts and TV Shows is a Major Red Flag, Psychologist Warns.

The weirdest things can relax or even calm people down. There are a lot of “Relaxing rain with distant artillery” ambient sounds on YouTube. I’m telling you, some people relax by doing the most expensive things.

But Dr. Thema Bryant says that before going to bed, people should think about why they like things like true crime stories and ask themselves, “Why does trauma calm me down?” It is more than just a hobby, it could mean something more serious.

Most of the time, we don’t even think about why we like something so much. But what if we did? The president of the APA, Dr. Thema Bryant, went on the Mel Robbins show to talk about mental health and getting your power back. Dr. Thema says that people who watch a lot of true crime shows before bed should think about why they do it. She then says that seeing and hearing bad things probably isn’t the best way to get to sleep.

Comfort in Trauma’s Familiarity

This is because people are comforted by things they are familiar with, in this case, a traumatic event from the past. She goes on to say that peace can be dull for some people and that getting out of their safe zone might help them enjoy life more.

As long as you know how it makes people feel, there’s nothing wrong with liking true crime. The person talking in the video is Dr. Thema Bryant, who has a PhD in clinical psychology and is the head of the American Psychological Association (APA) right now. She also has her own show called Homecoming, where she talks about mental health. As of this writing, there are 184 episodes.

She goes on to talk about how important it is to lean into the uncomfortable and new after the part you just saw. She talks about a client from her own practice who couldn’t tell her daughter that she loved her because it always seemed fake and odd to the daughter.

Dr. Thema says it was hard for her to say because she had only heard it in movies and never heard it herself. This made it feel fake to her, which is another way that trauma from the past can affect how we feel or act now. You can find the whole podcast here. The TikTok talk starts around the 35-second mark.


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

YouGov says that half of Americans like true crime material and one-third watch it at least once a week. However, this may have negative effects on mental health. Acenda talks about the effects of watching too much true crime: being wary of other people, feeling scared all the time, and being scared in your own home.

True Crime Causing Fear?

If you watch a lot of true crime shows and constantly check your locks, get scared at small noises in your home, or even start to isolate yourself out of fear, it’s time to stay away from them for a while.

Bored Panda talked to Debbie, also known as the True Crime Diva, to get her view on the matter. She became interested in true crime through books when she was in her early 20s and has been a fan ever since. Since 2010, she has written about unsolved crimes and other strange events.

Dr. Thelma
Image Credits: Instagram

Debbie doesn’t always agree with what Dr. Thema said, but she thinks it might be true for some people. “I stayed away from true crime because of stress.” “In 2012, my teenage son went missing for a few days,” she says. Because he had run away, she, her husband, and the police thought he had been taken.

They found him safe and sound not long after the incident, but the worry they were feeling about whether he was still alive, the mean people online, and the emotional ups and downs of that terrible event kept her from writing on her blog at all for over a year.

She became interested in true crime more than 30 years ago when she read Ann Rule’s book Small Sacrifices: The Shocking True Crime Case of Diane Downs and a story in People Magazine about the Jacob Wetterling abduction. Finally, in 2010, she was really upset about one murder case and chose to write about it to share her feelings with fans.

True Crime’s Tech Revolution

When it comes to true crimes, she finds the whole investigation process very interesting, especially DNA tests. When she thinks about what we could do to solve crimes 30 or 40 years ago, she finds the things we can do now truly amazing. She loves to write about missing-person cases and unsolved killings on her blog, even if it’s just to bring them to people’s attention in a small way.

The Diva says that most people can handle their fixation on true crime shows. “Some people host a podcast or YouTube channel, but I choose to write about it.” “Others, though, go too far,” she says, referring to the fact that some online creators act as investigators and get involved in cases, which hurts the investigation, such as in the Idaho Murders or the Gabby Petito case.

So much attention has been paid to them on TikTok, and ten times as many detectives have been called in. Sometimes the police have to tell them to stop, which Debbie says they shouldn’t have to do. She doesn’t mind online spies, but she thinks people should stay out of the way while the professionals do their work.

Women Dominate True Crime Audience

Also, it turns out that women like true crime more than men do. A lot more people who watch and make this kind of material are women. It’s not clear why exactly, but some say that women find it more realistic and want to learn more about how to stay safe.

There is even a long list of serial killers from before the 1900s, all the way back to 331 BC, on Wikipedia. It makes you wonder if they were as praised and well-known back then as they are now.  At the same time, public killings used to be big events, but we think that people were more careful about these things in the past. 

But I’m getting off track. There’s nothing wrong with liking real crime shows, but you should know a few things.  One thing is that a lot of it is thought to be wrong. A CNN piece talks about how to draw a line in the sand between what is ethical (educational and serious true crime) and what is unethical (glamorizing criminals and making up stories about what happened). 

Again, if you can connect your bad emotions or feelings to crime shows, it’s time to put them on hold. Take a break for yourself when you can’t sleep or your worry makes your heart feel like it’s going to jump out of your chest. 

More than 88k people watched the show clip on Mel Robbins’ TikTok, and almost 10k people liked it. Many of the users said that the talk opened their eyes, but some said that they liked true crime because of the mystery and that it wasn’t scary.

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