Psychologist Explains Why Doomscrolling Causes Anxiety and Depression

Psychologist Explains Why Doomscrolling Causes Anxiety and Depression

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Have you ever heard of the term doomscrolling? What is this new mental health concern that has psychologists up in arms? Well, people who are continually scrolling and looking for updates to tragic events may be in danger by ingesting so much negativity daily.

The past few months have brought about challenging conditions that people worldwide must learn a new reality. Life isn’t as it was before, and people are struggling to stay sane while living with a new set of rules. Many folks work from home, isolated from family and friends, and trying to adapt to dealing with the current epidemic.

Your lying-in bed with your mind racing about all the happenings of the world. Your bored, scared, frustrated, and have an unsettling feeling you can’t shake. You check into a local app or favorite news source to see what’s going on.

You want statistics and the latest happenings to put your mind at ease. Once you’ve satisfied your curiosity for an update, you move onto something else. The only problem is that you find that you’re repeating the process all over again in a few minutes.

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You’re obsessed with knowing what’s going on, and it’s a thought or feeling you can’t shake until you find out. From presidential election updates to virus happenstances, you want to know where you stand. You’re concerned if life as you know it will ever return to normal.

Before you know it, you’ve been scrolling and reading comments on social media for hours. This year has been monumentally unpleasant, and people on Twitter developed the term doomscrolling or doomsurfing to describe those obsessed with staying informed. Is it possible that 2020 is causing a new concern that goes far beyond the obvious?

Protective Mechanisms and Primal Instincts

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First, you should know that it’s completely normal to want to stay informed. It’s human nature to gather as much information as possible when someone feels they’re in danger. The amygdala is a structure within your brain’s limbic system that controls your fight-flight-freeze mode.

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When there is a danger in your environment, you’re constantly scanning for new threats. Your brain kicks into overdrive as it’s an instinct that saves lives. Imagine how the cavemen felt with all the dangers around them, yet they didn’t have social media or other technological advances to keep them informed.

They had to rely on gut instincts and their protective mechanisms to keep their families safe. With the pandemic being a genuine threat in today’s society, your brain is kicking into a hypervigilant state with ease. Psychologists confirm that fight or flight contributes to anxiety, depression, and even obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Why Doomscrolling is Bad For Your Mental Health?

You may feel that it’s harmless to scroll the internet trying to find out the latest news. However, this activity is a significant waste of time, but it’s filling your mind with so much negativity. Reading this stuff makes you panicked about life and your security, which can cause you to be hostile, aggressive and lead to stress, anxiety, and eventually, depression.

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The New York Times did a study in July of 2020 when the pandemic was peaking for the second time this year. They found that people were devoting 50 percent more of their time to scrolling for updates. This is precious time that you could be using to do other more resourceful things.

The more you search through commentary, news articles, and other occurrences, the more you feel helpless. You can do nothing to change the situations around you, but you can protect your family by following local mandates. If you continue doomscrolling endlessly, then some severe side effects can be harmful to both your physical and mental health.

Side Effects of Doomsurfing

What happens to an apple when it gets a bad spot on it? The rotten area is full of bacteria, and it grows until it takes over the whole piece of fruit. Now, use that analogy when it comes to putting negative things into your mind.

Sure, initially, it’s just a bad news report here or a troubling specialist giving their spill there. However, soon you become so permeated with the rottenness of negativity that it affects your entire wellbeing. Listening to all the terrible things occurring in the world leaves you with a sense of helplessness and dread.

You cannot change the circumstances, but you must learn coping skills to live with them. While you would think that doomscrolling is limited to your mental health, it can also affect your physical health. The following things have been observed with this state of mental unrest:

•Upset Stomach/Nausea

•Chronic Headaches

•Muscles Tension

•Fatigue

•Insomnia

•Poor Sleep Quality

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•Appetite Issues

Reducing Internet-Induced Anxiety

You don’t have to accept the mental and physical consequences that come from doomscrolling. Rather than looking at all these negative things, why not look for something positive that makes you smile? If you think you’re alone in your internet scrolling obsession, you would be mistaken.

Doomscrolling is so pervasive these days that one Twitter user, journalist Karen K. Ho, now uses the handle Doomscrolling Reminder Lady. Each day, she sends our words of encouragement and advises people to put down the phone and appreciate the positive things in life. From the many positive comments on her feed, it appears that her followers are both welcome and respect her common-sense reminders.

Inspiration to your Inbox

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Clinical Psychologist Dr. Amelia Aldao warns that “doomscrolling traps us in a vicious cycle of negativity” that triggers those anxious feelings. Here are five easy ways to help you break this harmful habit.

1. Set A Limit on Your Consumption Time

Give yourself a timed limit of how long and when you can surf. Reward yourself for cutting down your internet usage. Set the alarm to alert you to check the news, and don’t surf news and world reports during any other period. A good 10-15 minutes is all you need to get the gest of what’s going on.

2. Focus on News Where You Live

While it’s easy to become engrossed with what’s going on nationally or in or another state, try to focus on the news that pertains to you. It doesn’t mean that you don’t need to be informed of happenings across the globe, but you need to pace yourself. Your depression or anxiety is your body is trying to tell you it’s on overload from all this negativity. So it would be best if you cut back.

3. Opt-Out of News Alerts

News alerts can be beneficial, but they can also give you a burst of anxiety when they alert you with the latest happenings. If you’re already suffering from depression and anxiety, the last thing you need is something alerting you always to negative things. Face it; nothing on the news is ever good.

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4. Replace Scrolling with A Game Or E-Reader

One good way to divert your mind is to turn your attention to something else. Why not find a game on your play store that you love to play? Anytime you get the urge to scroll, you can play your game to release anxiety.

Additionally, an e-reader is an excellent choice so that you can brush up on your reading skills. Is there a new book you’ve wanted to read?

5. Don’t Keep Your Phone By Your Bedside

Most doomscrolling happens when you have idle time. So, rather than using your phone as an alarm clock or newspaper, please remove it from the side of your bed. Keep it close enough that you can hear if someone should call, but it should be out of your reach.

Most people find themselves surfing for hours on end when they cannot sleep, which will only acerbate the issue. Keeping the phone away from the bed will improve your sleep and help you to stay focused on getting some rest.

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Final Thoughts on Doomscrolling

If you’re continually scrolling your phone for the latest updates and breaking news, then you may find your brain is on overload. The bad-news-tracking impulse is something that is affecting millions across the globe because knowledge is power. Your primal instincts are kicking in as you want to protect you and your family.

Why do you think people are hoarding toilet paper, food, and doing other senseless things that are only making the situation worse? They hear of a toilet paper shortage and jump on the bandwagon. Fear is a tremendous motivator, and it’s time that you stop letting it have a foothold in your life.

Today, make an oath to yourself to slowly back away from the doomscrolling and start ingesting more positive things. You will be surprised by the difference it will make in your mental and physical health.

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