Psychological Thriller

Elizabeth Hannan

Genre- What's it all About?

A psychological thriller is a sub-genre of the thriller category. This genre is also similar to genres such as a Gothic or detective fiction because of the sense of something having a complex relationship between obsessive and pathological characters. Psychological thrillers use elements of mystery, drama and horror to create an eerie feel to the piece of literature. Some other characteristics of this genre is the emphasis on the mental states of the characters, oftentimes their thoughts or perception of things and distorts reality. Fear and/or anxiety are common elements in this genre where people react differently to a situation due to their mental state. Many of the main themes in psychological thrillers have to do with things such as reality, perception, the mind, existence, identity and death. Because of these themes, psychological thrillers become easy to detect due to the characters struggle with reality, who they are and what the purpose of their life is.


Some of the earliest examples of psychological thrillers go back to the late 1600's when tales such as The Little Red Riding Hood were written (1697). The idea of the wolf stalking and manipulating the characters in the tale are examples of this genre. However, the use of this genre didn't become popular until the 1920's and 30's when movies such as Safety Last (1923) came to the big screens. Also people such as Alfred Hitchcock who is very well known in the world of thrillers became a part of the development of psychological thrillers. After time, there has been an increase in violence and gore, as well as becoming more sophisticated, meant to mess with your brain. Since then, books, movies and televisions shows based on this genre have become very popular due to the incorporated elements of mystery, drama and horror.

Some Books from this Genre

Hampton Road by Michael Segedy

The Hole by Guy Burt

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The Face on the Milk Carton by Carloline B. Cooney

Desert Crossing by Elise Broach