Beware of Doomscrolling

By: Michael Toohey, Psy.D. | April 29, 2022

Staying current in the ever-changing world we live in is important, but how do we know how much information is too much? We can access information about world events from the palm of our hands, easily scrolling from one news source to the next. How do you know when you’ve consumed enough for one day? To find the answer, you must learn to listen to your feelings.

What is Doomscrolling? 

The Pandemic affects the way that we live, work, relate to others, and how we see the world around us. The rapid changes we’ve experienced over the past two years have led to us continually checking our phones for latest COVID news and updates as well as world developments.

Doomscrolling is an emerging concept. It showed up on Twitter in 2018, and its name is self-defining: when a person moves from one news story or social media post to the next, and so on and so on. Though the term is relatively new, it is known to have a negative impact on mental and emotional health. Doomscrolling isn’t reading the daily news to stay abreast and informed and then going about your day. It’s reading post after post to the point that you are negatively emotionally impacted for the rest of the day.

Signs that you might be a Doomscroller:

  • Checking the news multiple times a day
  • Spending long periods of time reading news stories
  • Feeling the urge to check the news repeatedly because you feel like you’ll miss something important
  • Reading multiple articles about the same news topic
  • Fixating on negative articles for hours
  • Feeling on edge or sad most of the day after reading the news
  • Neglecting other responsibilities because you’re repeatedly checking in on the days’ headlines or because of how the news affects you emotionally
  • Having a hard time sleeping after reading the news

The Negative Effects

Doomscrolling starts out as a way to cope with the difficult news we are consistently confronted with. However, this behavior quickly robs us of healthy sleep, interferes with meaningful relationships and keeps us from focusing on daily tasks and upholding our responsibilities.

Spending an excessive amount of screen time reading and watching negative news stories leads to feelings of sadness, despair, fear, anxiety, and increased stress. It can also exacerbate existing conditions such as depression, generalized anxiety disorder, OCD, and trigger trauma reactions and worsening of PTSD.

Dialing it Back

Do you recognize this tendency in yourself? If so, you may be wondering what to do about your Doomscrolling. Below are strategies to help you dial back your Doomscrolling and take back control of your life:

1. Set a daily time limit for news absorption

Decide when and where you want to consume the news, and then set a boundary not to check your phone for updates. Some people may want to get to it at the start of the day, while others may wait until after dinner. Pick a time where you think your mood will be the least impacted. Be careful not to consume the news when you first wake up or right before you go to bed. You will benefit from a “buffer time” to start and end your day more peacefully.

2. Reduce temptations

After you’ve reached your limit/boundary for the day, reduce temptations by turning ‘off’ alerts and notifications. If you feel the urge to check again, replace that behavior with something you enjoy: read some inspirational quotes, take a walk, read a book, or text a friend instead.

3. Be selective

Determine which news outlets provide information about current events in the least sensationalist way and stick to only them. And beware the algorithms! Many apps will suggest, or present articles based on the ones you’ve just read. Instead of reading more of the same, mix things up by reading some good news.

When to Get Help

Doomscrolling is problematic when you’ve tried to change your behavior but have been unsuccessful, or when you’ve limited the amount of media you consume and still feel like your mental and emotional health are negatively impacted. Changing your habits isn’t easy and addressing the underlying anxiety and worry behind Doomscrolling may require the support of a professional San Diego Psychologist. You and your therapist will work to apply these strategies into your daily life and find other, more positive outlets to cope with current world events.

Please Contact Us at Therapy Changes to learn more about how therapy can help. It’s the first, most important step you will take to reclaim your life and start feeling more like you again.



Photo by Rendy Novantino on Unsplash

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