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  • Writer's pictureKathy Rolfe

Media Anxiety: How to Cut Back Your Doomscrolling and Manage Your Headline Anxiety

We are all familiar with the idiom “if it bleeds it leads” as it relates to media outlets choosing what stories to promote and which to put on the back page of the newspaper (yes, I did just date myself there!).


The Impact of Information Overload

With the dawn of the internet, ongoing and immediate access to worldwide events has increased significantly. With the click of a mouse or the touch of a fingertip, all of us can read about violence, conflict, or tragedies on a global scale. Current examples include but are definitely not limited to: geopolitical conflict, racial injustice, the war in the Ukraine, climate change, mass shootings, political corruption, and the lasting impacts of the pandemic.


This “clickbait” overload can negatively affect mental health - and at times those who are consuming it may not even realize that these exposures are impacting them – but they are bothered by what they are reading and watching…repeatedly.


A woman sitting on a couch scrolling on her mobile phone. She looks worried.


Understanding the Effects of Doomscrolling and Headline Anxiety


Let’s face it, people have a fascination with dramatics – the action, anticipation, obsession, and excitement of the media can have an intoxicating effect. However, when this constant flood of headlines becomes invasive, they can result in pervasive mental health concerns. 


Many terms have been coined to describe this phenomenon – “doomscrolling”, “headline stress” and “headline anxiety” to name a few. For some, the symptoms of this condition can become overwhelming and can range from anxiety, helplessness, fear, and intrusive thoughts, to increased depression and worsened PTSD symptom presentation.


For example, Hwang et al., (2021) conducted a study that demonstrated that of the 2,251 adults surveyed in 2020 who sought out information in the preliminary stages of the COVID-19 pandemic across various media outlets – television, social media, and newspapers - reported increased rates of emotional distress. Interestingly, what was also discovered in this study was that those who sought out more information via these media outlets were doing so to alleviate their distress and anxiety, yet it resulted in an increase in their anxiety instead. So…. the relationship is inverse in nature. One seeks to self-soothe by seeking out more information, and instead the exposure increases/ exacerbates their symptoms.


That’s a major backfire! 


8 Tips to Manage Headline Anxiety

So what do we do about this? How do we manage our headline anxiety?


Here are a few tips:


  1. Know your triggers: Awareness is key. We all have a history, and we all have things that this history will influence. If you know certain topics will impact you, do your best to avoid watching or reading about these topics. 

  2. Limit How Often You Access the News: given the news alerts and Apps on our smartphones, accessing current news events is as easy as the flick of a fingertip. This can lead to impulse control issues and obsessions. While it is important to remain aware of current events, ensure that you are thoughtful about how much time you are spending reading or watching the news. Put a time limit on it if you must. Thoughtful consumption will help you avoid endless hours of scrolling. 

  3. Limit Apps: Ask yourself, do you need that app? Consider giving yourself a break from some social media/media sites. You can always add it again later, but making the news less accessible across various apps can help you cut back. 

  4. Counterbalance: Try and find some positive news as well. It’s out there! Some find it helpful to make a ratio rule. For example: find 2 good stories for every 1 negative story. Podcasts, news outlets, and social media sites focused upon positivity can assist in decreasing your stress and help you shift to a more positive mindset and worldview. 

  5. Practice Self-Care: Distractions and time away from negative media influences can really help – go for a walk, spend time with friends, pet the cat, play with the kids, do some yoga, be present, walk the dog, breathe, go for a bike ride, mediate – whatever works for you! Put the phone down and turn the TV off. You will thank yourself for it!

  6. Show Yourself Compassion: It’s important to understand that the world can be scary and full of unknowns – and that can be stressful! You can honor those feelings. 

  7. Talk It Out: Find a friend, family member or someone that you trust –they can offer comfort and perhaps a different perspective. Importantly – you are not alone.

  8. Develop Tools Through Therapy: Find a therapist who you can share your concerns with and who can provide you with some tools for how to cope with your symptoms. 



Find Support for Anxiety, Depression and Other Mental Health Concerns

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The talented therapists at Balance Psychological Services are willing and able to guide you and help decrease/ alleviate your anxiety, depression, and other mental health concerns. Connect with us today!






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References

Hwang, J., Borah, P., Shah, D., & Brauer, M. (2021). The relationship among COVID-19 information seeking, news media use, and emotional distress at the onset of the pandemic. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health18(24), 13198.

 

About Balance Psychological Services

Balance Psychological Services is a psychological private practice aimed toward healing, growth, and balance. Our mission is to ensure that every person who walks through our doors feels seen and accepted for exactly who they are, no matter the circumstances they are facing. With offices conveniently located in Stony Plain, Edmonton, and Beaumont, we are here and ready to help you find your balance. Book an appointment today.


Disclaimer

Information provided through Balance Psychological Services' blog posts is meant for educational purposes only. This is NOT medical or mental health advice. If you are seeking mental health advice, please contact us directly at (587) 985-3132.

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