Doomscrolling: the harmful new social media trend ruining your mental health

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Photo: Getty Image/Gallo Images
Photo: Getty Image/Gallo Images

It’s an unhealthy social media habit that could be damaging to your mental health.

Doomscrolling means to routinely consume negative information through your social media apps, whether that’s through public newsfeeds or private messages, writes Healthline.

With the current state of the world, doomscrolling could be considered one of the most vicious forms of self-harm.

According to experts, habitually consuming gloomy information increases your chances of falling into a debilitating depression and could even result in panic attacks.

If you’re guilty of doing so, here is why you should stop.

Why doomscrolling happens

Doomscrolling has increased during the coronavirus pandemic, reveals Dr Ariane Ling, a psychologist and clinical assistant professor in the department of psychiatry at NYU Langone Health in New York.

“The pandemic has exacerbated these habits in many ways, including the fact that there is no shortage of doomsday news,” she explains.

Information about the severity of the pandemic on health systems and economies around the world is easily accessible and people often have a hard time restricting their consumption thereof.

“This creates less barriers to being informed but also adds to the abundance of doomsday headlines out there,” Dr Ling adds.

Many people locked in doors because of the pandemic, have turned to social media for solace, Dr Nina Vasan, chief medical officer for a digital therapy company tells Shape.

“We're looking for more certainty and control at a time that, for many people, is the most chaotic of their lives,” Dr Vasan notes.

Social media is where they find entertainment and feel connected to others, the New York Times adds.

“There's a sense that something positive is just one click away and maybe it will make you feel better or give you a sense of control, so you're constantly looking to find it. But instead, you get barraged with more and more negative information.”

Photo: Getty Image/Gallo Images
Photo: Getty Image/Gallo Images

How doomscrolling affects your mental health

Gloomy headlines “trick your brain into thinking everything is negative” and results in alleviated stress levels, Dr Vasan says.

Those already suffering from depression and anxiety will only further increase their symptoms if they continue to doom-scroll.

“Paging through bad news, whether it's on your social feed or a news site, can be especially harmful if you're doing it first thing in the morning or before bed,” Dr Vasan says.

Doomscrolling can also lead to irregular sleeping patterns, difficulties in concentration and affect ones physical health as it results in the overproduction of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, Mayo Clinic reports.

Dr. Leela R. Magavi, a psychiatrist and regional medical director at Community Psychiatry, in California in the US, further notes that doomscrollers are likely to not only experience a sense of panic but also the inability to disengage from their newsfeed or social media.

“Many individuals experience cognitive distortions such as catastrophizing and doomscrolling could lead to an increase in ruminative thinking and panic attacks,” Dr Leela explains.

“A vicious feedback loop draws people back to news and scrolling yet again. This transient assurance, gained by reading the news, worsens anxiety over time.”

How to stop doom strolling

  • Limit the time you spend on your phone. Keep your phone in another room to stop yourself from checking it every two minutes if you must.
  • Instead of using your phone during your spare time, use the time to take walks, spend time with your family or cultivate your hobbies.
  • Restrict websites that could result in doomscrolling and use social media with a purpose. For example, to connect with your family and friends as opposed to just endlessly strolling through negative news.
  • Try to look for the positive in things, no matter how small.

Sources: The Tab, Metro, Healthline, NewYork Times, Shape, Mayo Clinic




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