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HomeHealth TopicMental Health

Doomscrolling: Why Too Much News Can Be Bad for Your Mental Health

Eric Patterson, LPCEmily Guarnotta, PsyD
Published on June 21, 2022

Key takeaways:

  • Consuming news can be a good way to stay involved and informed, but too much news can cause stress.

  • High stress from bad news can lead to unwanted mental and physical health conditions.

  • Setting boundaries on your news and news sources can help limit the unwanted effects of bad news. Seeking out positive news and focusing on self-care can reverse the unwanted symptoms.

Young man reading the news on his tablet at home. He has his hand on his forehead in distress.
FluxFactory/E+ via Getty Images

Staying up-to-date on current events and news helps you become a more informed person. With this material, you can make better decisions and stay engaged in the community and country.

But you could have too much of a good thing. Consuming too much news, especially negative or sensationalized stories, could hurt your mental health.

Keep reading to learn more about the impact of overreading news and ways to find a healthy balance.

Is reading or watching too much news bad for your mental health?

Most people are affected by bad news. Whether something unfortunate happens to your neighbor, your favorite sports team, or your country, bad news can leave an impact on your mind and body.

Ideally, you would receive small doses of bad news and then have days, weeks, or months before receiving more bad news. This way, you can use healthy coping skills to recover from the pain of the bad news before the next wave comes.

Unfortunately, people today are overly exposed to bad news. You might notice a flood of bad news coming from:

  • Television and documentaries

  • Newspapers

  • Websites

  • Radio and podcasts

  • Social media

Bad news and exposure to the 24-hour news cycle of bad news leads to higher levels of stress. It seems that the stress is growing.

In 2017, more than half of people surveyed said the news caused them high stress. Another survey from 2014, found that 40% of people said the news was one of their top stressors.

Why are people drawn to bad news?

If bad news causes stress, why do so many people consume such high amounts? It turns out that something called negativity bias could be to blame.

Negativity bias refers to the idea that people tend to place greater emphasis on negative events or information than positive ones. It developed as a form of protection. During ancient times, people stayed safer by focusing on the possibility of negative outcomes. Instead of relaxing as a bear approached, your ancestors reacted with caution and stress. 

Negativity bias worked well back then. But now it is no longer needed in the same way. Rather than keeping you safe, negativity bias causes you to feel more anxious and focus on the scary, uncertain, or uncontrollable parts.

You may seek out and react to bad news faster than good news. Bad news can hurt your mental health much more than good news can help it. 

What is ‘doomscrolling’?

One modern example of negativity bias is doomscrolling. While doomscrolling, you spend excessive amounts of time reading through bad news on social media or news websites.

With the seemingly endless amounts of bad news available, you can spend hours doomscrolling, even though it only feels like minutes. All of this bad news triggers more stress.

What are the negative effects of consuming too much news?

Consuming too much bad news can create high levels of stress. Stress can result in poorer self-care. You could neglect your sleep, diet, and exercise goals. And you could also feel worse overall

How does too much bad news affect your mental health?

Too much news can affect your mental health in direct and indirect ways. Exposure to bad news increases stress and stress can cause or contribute to:

  • Increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the body

  • Symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

  • Depressive symptoms, like loneliness and hopelessness

  • Anxiety symptoms, including fear, worry, and physical tension

  • Difficulty trusting others

  • Lower quality and amount of sleep

With higher depression and anxiety, your job, your relationships, and other aspects of your life could suffer. You might find yourself distracted, moody, and impulsive.

It’s important to remember that these effects can last long after the news is over. Just because you turn off the TV or put down your phone does not mean these negative effects disappear.

How does too much bad news affect your physical health?

Stress often affects physical health in addition to mental health. The high stress connected to too much news can cause:

  • Headaches

  • Aches and pains

  • Diarrhea or constipation

  • Sexual problems

  • Fatigue

  • Weight changes

  • Sexual problems

With enough consumption of news, the stress becomes chronic, which can raise the risk of more serious issues like:

  • High blood pressure

  • Heart disease

  • Diabetes

  • Obesity

  • Skin problems

  • Menstrual problems

Worse, if you already have any of these issues, the stress from too much news will intensify your symptoms. Your sexual problems could go from occasional to constant due to the effects of news consumption.

Who is at the most risk from bad news?

The harms of bad news do not affect all people evenly. Some groups will experience more distress from news consumption than others:

  • Women: Women report much higher stress levels than men from news.

  • Black and Hispanic men: Black and Hispanic men report higher stress levels than white men.

  • Social media users: Those using multiple social media sites are three times more likely to suffer anxiety and depression than others. 

So, a woman who is more active on social media will be more likely to experience stress from news than a white man who does not use social media. 

Can you be addicted to bad news?

Currently, there is no mental health disorder related to news addiction. The ongoing desire to watch news, even though it’s harming you, does share similarities to behavioral addictions, though.

Experts do know that consuming news can influence the same brain chemicals associated with addiction. In this way, watching the news could be a lot like:

A person who consumes too much news is like a person with a substance use disorder or a gambling disorder. This is because they will continue the behavior, even when it interferes with their relationships, job, and happiness. Just because there is no diagnosis does not mean excessive news consumption is not a problem for you. 

Tips on how to have a healthy and constructive relationship to the news

You may need to take action to address your relationship with the news if it is becoming too stressful. Consider these tips for understanding and improving your relationship with the news:

  • Reflect on your relationship. Does the news create a lot of anger, sadness, or stress? If so, the relationship needs to change.

  • Add more good news. You need a lot of good news to balance out the bad. Make it a point to find positive reports and stories. 

  • Limit your time. Get an idea of the time you devote to news and begin cutting back. Reduce your total amount of screen time or only consume at certain times of day.

  • Limit your sources. So many news options can offer many different points of view. Search for sources of information that seem fair and accurate without causing excessive stress in you.

  • Consider a news fast. A news fast is a set period of time that you avoid all news. You can do this for a day, week, or month. Or you could choose to only consume news on certain days of the week. Like with addictions, some people cannot find moderation, so cutting out all news could be your best option. 

Anytime you need additional assistance with a stressful situation, consult with your loved ones. If you need professional help, consider a therapist to address and modify your situation.

The bottom line

News is a good thing. But, like other good aspects of life, you can take it too far. Take the steps to accept and change the way you interact with news. Staying informed is important. But staying healthy is essential. 

View All References (3)

National Institute of Mental Health. (n.d.). I’m so stressed out! Fact sheet.

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (2020). Too much bad news: How to do an information fast.

VicHealth. (2021). What science tells us about our response to both good and bad news.

GoodRx Health has strict sourcing policies and relies on primary sources such as medical organizations, governmental agencies, academic institutions, and peer-reviewed scientific journals. Learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate, thorough, and unbiased by reading our editorial guidelines.

For additional resources or to connect with mental health services in your area, call SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357. For immediate assistance, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988, or text HOME to 741-741 to reach the Crisis Text Line.

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