The Real Reason You Should Refrain From "Doomscrolling"

With an unprecedented amount of people stuck at home this past year, screen time use has skyrocketed. Depending on what you spend time looking through, however, your mental health may be impacted. If you find yourself focused more on swiping through negative trends, you may be a doomscrollerDoomscrolling (or doomsurfing), is the tendency to consistently scroll through bad news-related topics, such as COVID-19, civil unrest, politics, or untimely deaths.

There is a reason doomscrolling is addicting. Psychiatrist Ken Yeager, Ph.D., tells Health"We are all hardwired to see the negative and be drawn to the negative because it can harm us physically." He goes on, stating that evolution is the reason we look for the negatives because we think we can avoid it if we are aware of what can hurt us. But this can lead to unwanted effects. Dr. Yeager says, "People are drawn to doomscrolling because they feel like they have a sense of being able to control any of that bad news, but doomscrolling does not create control and only makes you miserable." 

The mental and emotional effects of doomscrolling include increasing feelings of anxiety and despair, as well as creating a trap for a "vicious cycle of negativity," according to clinical psychologist Dr. Amelia Aldao (via NPR). Furthermore, licensed psychologist Erika McElroy, Ph.D., told POPSUGAR that you may have a doomscrolling problem if the behavior interferes with your job, family, or social life.

Ending the doomscrolling cycle

According to Dr. McElroy, like any bad habit, awareness and making different choices help to break the cycle. Regarding doomscrolling, she suggests to first become aware of how much time you spend surfing the negative news by checking your screen time reports, and then setting a limit that works for you. She tells POPSUGAR that "If you feel anxious and upset, that's a cue that you probably need to reduce the amount of time reading news or possibly read the news less frequently."

"It can be helpful to plan a pleasant activity like a walk or talking with a friend after spending time reading negative news," Dr. McElroy explains, which offers more of an emotionally balanced daily experience. She says that avoiding scrolling before bed, unplugging completely for a set period, and weekly self-checks can also help break the negative habit.

On a final note, here is a brilliant piece of advice, courtesy of NPR; "Swap 'vicious cycles' for 'virtuous cycles,'" meaning to use your time to find joy and fill your day with experiences that can benefit your mental health, rather than harm it.