by Murray Heintz, Registered Psychologist


Doomscrolling. What Is It and How To Stop It

Doomscrolling is when someone continually scrolls through sad, depressing, or traumatizing media on their devices. If someone is already struggling to manage depression or anxiety, they are particularly at risk for amplifying these feelings.

Why do people doomscroll? Doom scrolling provides a sense of control in that the individual can choose what to research. However, the information they find is endless and may never be concluded. The way the algorithms in all social media operate, the same or similar depressing content is suggested in our feeds, thus increasing our exposure without actively seeking out this material. This results in the person becoming even more stressed as they have tailored their searches to what creates the most anxiety for themselves.

Doomscrolling can also amplify depressive symptoms. It reinforces negative thinking patterns, causing depression to worsen. Excessive screen time can also increase loneliness and isolation, disconnecting people from real-life relationships and an active lifestyle.

Just not using their devices is not reasonable or feasible for many people. One can implement several tips to offset the potential downsides of scrolling.

Set limits on how much time you spend online. You can keep track by simply using a timer. If you continue to feel overwhelmed and anxious while researching, consider stepping away for periods. There are a variety of time-limiting apps you can use to do this.

Be an active participant in how you research and what you access online. Do not simply log into your account and “drift along” with what you are viewing. Have a reason or purpose for logging in. Adjust settings on social media and apps to exclude specific posts, accounts, or tags. You can also block selected websites on your browser. Consider this information as “out of sight, out of mind.”

Be intentional. Actively seek out positive stories when you are online.

Reallocate some of the time you spend online to doing activities and attending to your life in the “real” world.

For some people, taking a break from social media and news media is necessary to help them refocus their attention.

Like many things, accessing content online is not inherently bad; what, how, and why we are accessing is what can be detrimental.

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