Opinion Piece: Doomscrolling Is A Mental Health Hazard

George J. Ziogas

Doomscrolling, a new health hazard, involves constant engagement with negative news. It bears the hallmarks of addiction and is tough to quit. It’s hard to avoid dismal broadcasts because the media focuses on harrowing events, offering frequent bleak speculations.

Doomscrollers fixate on disheartening reports even when aware it makes them unhappy. They might want to stop, but the compulsion to interact with disturbing commentary persists. Here’s why doomscrolling is harmful and how to curb a negative news fixation.

Why doomscrolling is unhealthy

It seems natural disasters, terrorist attacks, and other dispiriting reports hog the limelight. News channels often concentrate on negativity because it attracts viewers. But their insistence on elevating distressing events can damage public well-being. It implies that chaos and catastrophes reign supreme.

Studies link news exposure during traumatic events with poor mental health. Regular viewing can lead to stress, anxiety, and depression. Research carried out just after the Boston Marathon bombings, for instance, reveal heavy viewing over six hours per day of media coverage caused people to experience acute stress compared to viewers who watched far less news.

Experts suggest doomscrolling rises when uncertainty enters the public view. People engage with media more when the consequences of negative news or unsettling events are unclear. They want to know what’s happening. Elections, pandemics, racial injustice investigations, and other stressful events continue longer than many natural disasters and prolong stress. Consequently, more people suffer from poor mental health when engaging with ongoing negative media.

Why it’s hard to quit doomscrolling

If you’re self-aware, you might note doomscrolling lowers your mood and recognize it’s logical to stop. But quitting upsetting media engagement isn’t easy. Not only do you want closure on stressful events, so you keep checking the news, you also long for positive reports.

They might be rare, yet, when you come across uplifting stories, you find relief. You hope to discover more optimistic reports and boost your happiness, so you continue to engage with media coverage. Before you know it, you switch on the TV early in the morning to catch ongoing reports, and it’s the last thing you do at night, too.

How to stop doomscrolling

If doomscrolling makes you anxious or depressed, take steps to handle your media consumption. Watching and reading the news can be important, but remember your mental health matters too. Here’s how to reduce stress caused by media viewing and set boundaries.

Limit your media consumption

Be aware of how often you engage with news. Decide what’s essential viewing, too. For example, once you’ve listened to the key topics, stop. Most news coverage repeats throughout the day, and re-listening to negative stories can increase stress.

Stick to reputable news sources

Limit news sources, choosing only those with an excellent reputation. The ability to scroll through multiple news channels isn’t always helpful. If you’re apt to doomscroll, choose one or two worthy channels and forget the rest.

Consider when to consume news

Hearing the news in the morning can color the rest of your day, leaving you blue, and late evening viewing might affect your sleep quality. Select a specific time to engage with news and avoid coverage the rest of the day.

Schedule feel-good activities

Offset depressing news consumption with positive actions. Take an evening stroll to view the sunset, for example, or play games with your children. Boost a good mood by doing things you know make you happy, and your mood won’t plummet.

Tell friends and family about your news-consumption boundaries

Negative news reaches your ears via conversations, not only from newspapers, the radio, and TV. Let close friends and family you talk to daily know if you prefer not to talk about current topics that depress you.

Read entire stories

If you explore newspapers or news articles online, don’t scan headlines. Read entire stories. Journalists often create sensational headlines to grab attention. The news, though, doesn’t always warrant such drama. You could mistake reported events as catastrophic when you skim, so make sure you know the entire story rather than make assumptions.

If you identify as a doomscroller, notice how negative news lowers your mood and limit input.

Be discerning about news sources, and set viewing boundaries.

Remember to focus on positive activities during the day, too, and doomscrolling won’t damage your mental health.

Yes, it’s true:

“The brains of humans contain a mechanism that is designed to give priority to bad news.” — Daniel Kahneman

But, never forget:

“The world isn’t as bad as you think.” — Ryohgo Narita

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