Why Some Fans Say They Experienced Post-Avatar Depression Syndrome

The experience of viewing a masterful piece of art — like a painting, a dance, or a film — has the power to pull directly at your emotions. You might recall the last time that a work of art left you bursting with joy, puzzled with curiosity, or teary with empathy or sentimental emotion. This is hardly an accidental circumstance of art viewing. According to the University of Vienna, a core aspect of viewing art is the arousal of emotions. From some philosophical points of view, the real value, or definition of art can be determined by the emotions, or lack thereof, that the work can draw out of the viewer (via Oxford Bibliographies).

It turns out that movies can have some interesting effects on the body that may relate to how we feel our emotions. For example, heart rate may change with the story arc of the movie (per University College London). Further, the audience's heartbeats may begin to synchronize, hinting at a sort of shared experience in engagement. For these reasons, it is possible that a trip to the movies could be beneficial for your overall well-being. However, emotional highs often beget emotional lows. For example, reports emerged that viewers of the original Avatar film experienced a form of Post-Avatar Depression Syndrome (PADS), says the Guardian. With the newest installment of the Avatar moniker — "The Way of Water" — recently debuting in theaters, you might wonder what PADS is. Here's everything you need to know.

Have you experienced Post-Avatar Depression Syndrome?

According to the Guardian, Post-Avatar Depression Syndrome (PADS) is not an actual medical condition, but it does represent valid feelings of depression and even suicidal thoughts that people have reported since viewing the original Avatar film. Interestingly, some people have even reported experiencing PADS after rewatching the film years later. People felt that the reality of the modern world — where we are often removed from natural settings and unhappy with the modern lifestyle — formed a stark contrast to the larger-than-life beauty they experienced at the cinema. In search of an explanation, New York psychiatrist Stephan Quentzel went on the record to proffer that the real world cannot be as perfect or ideal as it is in the movies, which can make reality feel inferior (via CNN). However, this phenomenon may not be unique to Avatar fans — and there may be a neuroscientific explanation that can expand upon the psychology of these post-movie blues.

Like Avatar fans, some Star Wars fans also report feeling depressed after a movie (per Vice). Neuroscientist Erin Falconer explained that high degrees of anticipation lead to the release of dopamine in the brain. The ensuing crash from the rush of dopamine can lead to what clinical psychologist John Mayer calls "situational depression" — which is related to a particular stressor — reports NBC. While some movies may be hyper-stimulating, the comedown and disillusionment might make you think twice about the value of the artistic experience.