What Is Doomscrolling and How Could It Be Affecting Your Mental Health?

What is Doomscrolling and How Can It Affect Your Mental Health?

The past few years have brought a lot of bad news, from the pandemic to social unrest. You're not alone if you're caught in the cycle of reading negative social media posts. Doomscrolling is a habit to which we are all vulnerable. It involves constantly scrolling through and reading negative news stories and social media posts. The act can harm our mental and physical health, triggering and worsening anxiety, panic, depression and stress.

Fortunately, we can curb the habit by limiting screen time, setting boundaries for news consumption and participating in healthy activities that make us feel good.

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What Is Doomscrolling?

The definition of doomscrolling is not entirely new, but the term is. Doomscrolling is the act of scrolling through social media and reading negative online news posts for long periods. The activity may begin as a way to stay updated on the news before quickly turning into a destructive cycle or compulsion. You might see poor political behavior or racial injustice around the world, and while the stories make you feel bad, you keep scrolling.

The term doomscrolling became more well-known in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic saw people turn to social media for information and answers to soothe their fears. The pandemic changed how we live and work, with individuals spending 4.2 average hours daily on smartphones. With a never ending supply of depressing stories to fixate on, it's no wonder doomscrolling has taken a toll on people, both mentally and physically.

We might tell ourselves that we wish to stay informed, but there's often something deeper at play when we find ourselves obsessively scrolling through negative news posts and headlines. People with depression might look for information to confirm their feelings — reading negative news can confirm our negative emotions. Doing this a few times can quickly turn the activity into a habit.

When we continuously scroll, it becomes a mindless habit which we are not always aware we're doing it. Doomscrolling can also be a function of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). In these situations, your mind loops on a specific topic, similar to endless scrolling. The activity becomes less about finding news and more about reducing anxiety.

Doom Scrolling And Its Effect On Your Mental Health


How Doomscrolling Can Affect Mental Health

Long before we defined doomscrolling, studies found long-term social media use could negatively impact mental health. Now news stories about disease, violence and political issues add a layer of damage, with obsessively scrolling contributing to anxiety, depression and stress. Here are just a few ways doomscrolling can affect mental health:

  • Worsens mental illness: The cycle of turning to negative news stories can impact existing mental health issues. If you have a history of depression or anxiety, the habit can trigger or worsen symptoms. And when you're feeling low, seeking out news stories can reinforce these feelings and keep you feeling sad.
  • Increases panic and anxiety: Consuming a constant stream of negative information can lead to feelings of helplessness, hopelessness and fear, ultimately leading to anxiety and stress. This is particularly true when the information being consumed is related to a specific event or crisis, such as a pandemic or political unrest.
  • Leads to isolation and loneliness: Doomscrolling can also lead to a sense of isolation and loneliness. When people engage in this behavior, they may withdraw from their everyday social interactions and activities, leading to feelings of disconnection from others. Additionally, doomscrolling depression can be particularly isolating, as the content being consumed may focus on negative events happening in distant locations or with people not personally known.
  • Interferes with sleep: Engaging in this behavior before bedtime can increase stress and anxiety, making it difficult to fall asleep. The blue light emitted by electronic devices can also interfere with the body's natural sleep cycle, making it harder to achieve a restful night's sleep.
  • Impacts self-esteem: Doomscrolling can also have an impact on self-esteem. Constantly consuming negative news and social media can lead to a distorted view of the world and one's place in it. This can ultimately lead to feelings of inadequacy, self-doubt and a lack of confidence.
  • Causes loss of motivation: When people engage in doomscrolling, they may become distracted and find it difficult to focus on other tasks or responsibilities. Doomscrolling depression can ultimately lead to a sense of overwhelm, making it harder to complete necessary tasks and achieve goals.
  • Increases unease and confusion: Social media sites can allow all kinds of posts, true or not. You might see claims made by friends and family that might not be true, which can be confusing and upsetting when trying to find truthful information.

What to Do if Doomscrolling Is Affecting Your Mental Health

Being aware of your doomscrolling habit is the first step toward curbing it. Here are some concrete steps you can take to limit the adverse effects of doomscrolling on mental health:

  • Set time limits: One strategy is to limit the time spent consuming news or social media. This might involve setting a specific amount of time each day to engage with these platforms or avoiding them altogether during certain times of the day. You might also keep your phone out of the bedroom to prevent scrolling before bed, which can disrupt your sleep.
  • Seek balanced news sources: Another strategy is to be mindful of the content being consumed. It may be helpful to avoid news or social media accounts that are particularly negative or sensationalized and instead seek out more balanced sources of information.
  • Practice mindfulness: While scrolling, be mindful of how you feel so you can focus on the present rather than worrying about the past or future. Focus on the positives of social media, such as reaching out and connecting with people you cannot see in person. Block posts that upset or overwhelm you and participate in lighthearted, positive pages.
  • Engage in healthy activities: It can help to step away from social media and participate in activities that promote relaxation and stress reduction. This might involve taking a walk, practicing mindfulness or meditation or engaging in a creative hobby.
  • Seek support from a mental health professional: Going to therapy or counseling can be helpful for those struggling with the negative impacts of doomscrolling. Therapists can provide strategies for managing stress and anxiety and techniques for promoting self-care and resilience.

Get Compassionate, Comprehensive Mental Health Treatment at Diamond House


Get Compassionate, Comprehensive Mental Health Treatment at Diamond House

Doomscrolling can significantly affect mental health, leading to anxiety, stress, isolation and other adverse outcomes. By being mindful of the content being consumed and taking steps to limit exposure, individuals can minimize the harmful effects of this behavior and promote greater well-being. If you struggle with the negative impacts of doomscrolling, consider reaching out to Diamond House. Our licensed and experienced therapists can work with you to develop coping strategies, manage stress and anxiety and improve your overall well-being.

Don't let doomscrolling take a toll on your mental health any longer. Contact us today to schedule an appointment and take the first step towards a healthier, happier life.