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3 Dec

Ritual raging: why so many ladies are turning to

Scream therapy is on the rise – but what’s it exactly, and does it really work?

“You recognize sometimes I come down here and just wait. I mean, just especially,” Liza Minelli as Sally Bowls says, immediately after screaming her heart out to the sounds of a train whizzing past and experiencing an almost orgasmic state of release. “You must try it sometime…you’ll feel terrific afterwards.”

Cabaret could also be a piece of fiction, but therapeutic screaming could be very real. Every night at 10pm, students living in Sweden’s Flogsta neighbourhood let loose a collective shriek from their windows – a convention which dates back to the Nineteen Seventies. Grimes enjoys a 20-minute screaming session as a part of a wellness routine that also features NAD+ supplements, sword fighting and a deprivation tank. Most recently, this September Leadenhall Market opened up a short lived ‘screamatorium’ for stressed-out employees to go to and yell their worries away.

A number of years ago, Selina*, 30, took to the Yorkshire Moors to scream. “I used to be processing rather a lot, including becoming estranged from my biological family. I listened to an indignant Riot Grrrl playlist and just let loose my anger,” she says. “I considered all of the ways I’d been let down by my family through unimaginably tough things and the way they’d shamed me and disappeared on me over and once again. I just screamed and yelled. I used to be alone, just me and the moors, and that’s all I needed. Nature heard me and that was enough.”

Sarah, 30, is one other fan of screaming. She explains that the past 4 months of her life have been devastating. “One in all my closest friends committed suicide, I got ghosted from my dream job, I’ve had friend break-ups, and I had a heartbreaking personal loss,” she says, adding that there have been times when she struggled to get through the day. “Then I used to be driving around in the future and felt my throat get hot. It just got here out of me. I just screamed and screamed. The screams I let loose made me feel physically lighter,” she says. “I believe that one night of screaming fast-forwarded a whole lot of healing for me. It’s at all times higher out than in.”

Similarly, Fionna, 27, tells me she once drove to an area park on a whim and began screaming during a stressful period in her life. “Now I do it repeatedly,” she says, adding that she’d recommend it to anyone.

The thought of screaming as a therapeutic emotional release isn’t especially recent. ‘Primal therapy’ began to realize traction within the early Nineteen Seventies following the publication of psychotherapist Arthur Janov’s first book, The Primal Scream. Janov theorised that repressed emotions cause psychological issues, so he encouraged people in primal therapy to let go of those pent-up feelings in whatever way they wanted: comparable to talking, crying and, often, screaming.

Fast forward to today, and primal therapy has since declined in popularity. It never really achieved acceptance in mainstream psychology, as Janov lacked the research to substantiate its effectiveness. Dr Rebecca Semmens-Wheeler, senior lecturer in psychology at Birmingham City University, reiterates this. “I’m not convinced that screaming does profit an individual’s wellbeing, in the long run. It seems as if screaming can trigger a release of endorphins within the body,” she explains. “These are a ‘feel good’ hormone, so a fast blast of those might lift your mood for those who’re feeling stressed or anxious, but this isn’t a long-term solution.”

That said, although experts aren’t convinced of the long-term advantages of primal therapy, we shouldn’t overlook the short-term advantages of getting a little bit scream. Dr Semmens-Wheeler acknowledges that while screaming can’t ‘replace’ therapy with a licensed skilled, it can be a robust cathartic release. “The sound of a scream might make the emotions which have been pushed down more tangible,” she says. “We do know that crying helps by reducing levels of cortisol, which is the stress hormone within the body. If screaming can assist to get in contact with emotions and help one to cry too, then it follows that it would reduce stress within the person crying.”

This chimes with Fionna, who describes screaming as “crying without crying”, and adds that it enables her to feel “release and clarity”.  Sarah feels similarly. “Something my therapist and I even have spoken about is how I are likely to hold things in my mind and body to try to administer them internally, when more often than not it’s OK to simply let it out,” she says.

It’s no real surprise that the recognition of ‘mindful screaming’ appears to be on the up. The pandemic saw the worldwide prevalence of tension and depression increase by 25 per cent, and our collective mental wellbeing is barely getting worse with additional stressors comparable to the cost of living crisis and climate breakdown. With therapy inaccessible to many – attributable to long NHS wait lists and the sheer cost of going private – it is smart that individuals are searching for more unorthodox ways of venting their feelings. Just have a look at the recognition of ‘rage rooms’, where you possibly can smash up random items in a secure space: since the primary one opened in Nottinghamshire in 2016, others have popped up across the country – from Newcastle to Birmingham to Manchester.

Interestingly, women appear to be particularly drawn to this sort of expressive, physical therapy – The Guardian recently published an article (which subsequently went viral) about groups of girls who meet as much as scream the world over, from Australia to The Netherlands. It is smart: a lot of us have been told, at one point or one other, that we’re “an excessive amount of” or that we’re “crazy” for expressing any sort of negative emotion. At the identical time, we’re expected to do a disproportionate amount of emotional labour, and sometimes find ourselves smoothing over thorny situations and regulating the emotions of others. It’s exhausting. “As women we so often repress our anger, believing it to be essential for our survival, but what we actually need is to release it,” Selina says. “We deserve that. Repressing anger is toxic to your mind and soul, especially when it’s about an injustice you’ve faced.”

The underside line is: screaming won’t solve all of your problems and may never replace therapy with an expert – as Dr Semmens-Wheeler puts it, “screaming to access repressed emotions is perhaps like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut, when it is perhaps best to fastidiously prise it open and compassionately explore what’s inside.” That is indisputable – but at the identical time, it’s value acknowledging that therapy is inaccessible for a lot of, and screaming is a straightforward way of attending to grips with a few of your emotions. So while it’s doubtful a screaming session will work miracles to your mental health, it’s evident that it can help clear your mind – akin to a great cry or belly-laughing together with your best friends. At the top of the day, it’s free, it harms nobody, and may make you’re feeling a bit higher – so, provided you only don’t do it while waiting in line to your morning latte from Pret, it’s value a shot.

*Name has been modified

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