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Is Watching the News Bad for Mental Health?

is watching the news bad for mental health

best365体育投注appVerywell / Catherine Song

Key Takeaways

  • Trying to strike a balance between being informed by news media and not becoming overwhelmed by it is difficult—especially during a global crisis.
  • A constant stream of sensational or "disaster" reporting, whether you are exposed actively or passively, can elevate stress levels and trigger your "fight or flight" response. You might even develop anxiety and trouble sleeping.
  • Managing your media consumption can help you stay up to date while also reducing your stress. Try giving yourself a set amount of time each day to review the headlines, ensure that your sources are reputable, and check-in with yourself emotionally before settling in to watch or read the news.

best365体育投注app The media we consume daily has an impact on our thinking, behavior, and emotions. If you’ve fallen into a pattern of regularly watching or listening to the news, the majority of what you’re consuming is likely about the crisis.

best365体育投注app And while staying up to date on local and national news, especially as it relates to mandates and health updates, is critical during this time, experts say over-consumption of the news can take a toll on your physical, emotional, and mental health. 

best365体育投注appWith that in mind, the goal is to find the balance between feeling informed and educated on the situation at hand while not becoming totally overwhelmed by it. After all, when good news is available, or the situation changes for the better, it will come to you, you won't need to seek it out.

We asked several mental health experts to explain how this constant stream of disastrous news is adding to our stress levels and increasing symptoms of anxiety and depression. Plus, tips on how to navigate the 24-hour news cycle, while still managing and protecting your mental health.

Why Watching the News Can Impact Mental Health 

According to the (CDC), the COVID-19 outbreak is proving to be stressful for most people. During an infectious disease outbreak, the CDC says stress can include changes in sleep or eating patterns, worsening of mental health conditions, fear and worry about your health and the health of loved ones, and difficulty concentrating.

best365体育投注app Compounding this stress is the constant stream of news about COVID-19 that we are exposed to on a daily, hourly, and even minute-by-minute basis. “Unfortunately, a lot of the news we consume today isn’t so much reporting as it is a way of keeping people addicted to the news cycle,” says licensed psychologist, PsyD.

best365体育投注app Because sensational headlines get more attention, Jones says media outlets often end up focusing on disaster reporting—and rarely any positive news.

Logan Jones, PsyD

Consuming too much of this kind of news, whether actively or passively, can be very toxic, and what you hear has an impact on your mood.

— Logan Jones, PsyD

“It can be damaging to constantly be reading the news because constant exposure to negative information can impact our brain,” says MSW, LCSW-C, LICSW. When we experience a threat, Miller says our brain activates the fight or flight response, and the systems in our body react accordingly.

best365体育投注app Consuming the news can activate the sympathetic nervous system, which causes your body to release stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. Then, when a crisis is happening, and we are experiencing this stress response more frequently, Miller says physical symptoms may arise. Some of the most common symptoms are fatigue, anxiety, depression, and trouble sleeping.

This emotional toll and negative effect on the psyche was demonstrated in a study that found people who watched negative material, as compared to those who watched positive or neutral material, showed an increase in both anxious and sad moods only after 14-minutes of viewing television news bulletins and programs.

In addition to an increase in anxious and sad moods, the researchers also found the results to be consistent with the theories of worry that implicate negative mood as a causal factor in facilitating worrisome thought.

Tips for Managing the News

Like a lot of things, the key to staying healthy is moderation. "Staying informed is not just responsible, but critical to our safety right now, explains , M.S., licensed professional counselor. 

best365体育投注app To strike the balance of moderation while staying informed, the (WHO) recommends seeking news about COVID-19 mainly so that you can take practical steps to prepare your plans and protect yourself and your loved ones. Once you have that information, it’s time to turn the news off.

To help alleviate the mental and emotional toll this is all taking, the CDC recommends taking breaks from watching, listening, or reading news stories, especially since hearing about a pandemic repeatedly is upsetting. 

Limit Your Time Each Day

best365体育投注app Leaving your television on or streaming live news broadcasts on your phone while tending to other business can take a toll on you emotionally. Rather than having the news be your background noise, , LCSW, is recommending less than 30 minutes per day total of social media scrolling and news exposure combined.

Schedule a "Worry Time"

best365体育投注app Scheduling a “worry time” each day is a common strategy for managing the symptoms related to anxiety disorders. Miller says this technique is also helpful for watching and digesting the news cycle. “Scroll through the news, acknowledge anything you are worried about, and make plans for addressing any issues,” she says.

best365体育投注app Then, choose a time that is far enough away from your bedtime so that your brain has time to settle before you go to bed. The idea, says Miller, is to minimize worry and news intake by scheduling it into your day. After your worry time is over, Miller says to put the news aside and remind yourself that it’s not time to worry right now and move onto other things.

Annie Miller, MSW, LCSW-C, LICSW

Your brain will eventually get used to this new routine and it will start to be able to let worries go more easily.

— Annie Miller, MSW, LCSW-C, LICSW

Gauge How You Feel Before Watching 

Once you commit to limiting the amount of news you watch, , a licensed marriage and family therapist, says the next step is to gauge how you feel before and after watching to understand how it's affecting you.

She says to do a quick check and ask yourself the following question: “Do you feel informed and calm, or panicked, angry, and/or pessimistic?” If it's the latter, Edelstein says to consider how much news you're consuming and the sources you’re getting it from, and make an intention to reduce your consumption.

Watch Reliable News Outlets

best365体育投注app “A healthy way to approach the news cycle is to rely on outlets you know are credible, have experienced reporters who do their research, and provide balanced perspectives,” says Jones. He also says to be mindful of how much you consume.

Logan Jones, PsyD

best365体育投注appYou probably have set times every day when you eat, and you can do the same with news. Check-in with what’s going on in the world by consuming the sources that nourish you, and then move on to something else.

— Logan Jones, PsyD

Get a News Summary From Close Friends or Family

best365体育投注app If watching the news is triggering regular symptoms of anxiety or depression, Neidich is recommending no exposure at all. Instead, she suggests that you ask a close friend or loved one to filter the news for you. Then, have them check in with you a few times per week about the most important updates. “There is no reason that any of us need to be exposed to the news beyond that,” says Neidich.

Subscribe to a Newsletter or Podcast

Rather than flipping channels and gathering part of news stories from different outlets, Cook says a lot of people find it helpful to subscribe to a daily newsletter or news podcast, as this automatically limits the time and content for you.

best365体育投注appPlus, you can listen to a podcast while you exercise, which can help keep your anxiety and worry levels low.

Recite a Helpful Mantra

According to Jones, healthy news consumption isn’t about denying reality, but it is about creating boundaries. His recommendation for creating boundaries around negative and disastrous news? Reciting a helpful mantra like this one: “Toxic disaster reporting has no power over me. I acknowledge what’s happening in the world, but I will not let it define my life. I’m going to persevere and do my part.”

Limit Your Exposure to Other Stressors

Another point to consider, says Cook, is to give yourself permission to limit your exposure to certain people right now. “If you have a family member who is constantly posting links to questionable articles from unknown sources, go ahead and unfollow them for now. If a friend or coworker insists on having current events related conversations that don’t feel productive and only serve to increase your anxiety, consider putting some boundaries in place with them,” she says.

Something along the lines of, “Hey, I’m really starting to feel overwhelmed by this topic, so I’d prefer if we’d change the subject,” can be effective with some people.

Do Something Healthy After Watching the News

best365体育投注app For most of us, consuming some form of news each day is essential. To help combat feelings of fear, anxiety, and worry that often accompany negative news, Edelstein suggests choosing to do something positive or healthy immediately after, like taking a walk, calling a friend, or working on a hobby. “Because things are so uncertain, we need healthy distractions right now to stay grounded and resilient,” she says.

What This Means For You

Taking steps to minimize stress during this difficult time is essential for both your physical and mental health. While watching the news can provide you with critical information about protecting yourself and others, taking in too much information can be overwhelming and detrimental to your mental health.

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Article Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Johnston WM, Davey GC. Br J Psychol. 1997;88 ( Pt 1):85-91. doi:10.1111/j.2044-8295.1997.tb02622.x

Additional Reading
  • best365体育投注appCenters for Disease Control and Prevention. . 2020.

  • Cook, Kellie Casey. Email interview. March 31, 2020.

  • Edelstein, Ashleigh. Email interview. April 2, 2020.

  • Jones, Logan. Email interview. April 2, 2020.

  • best365体育投注appMiller, Annie. Email interview. April 3, 2020.

  • best365体育投注appNeidich, Haley. Email interview. Apri 2, 2020.

  • best365体育投注appWorld Health Organization. 2020.