What is Doomscrolling and How Does it Affect Mental Health?

We’ve all picked up our phones out of boredom, or perhaps to distract ourselves from loneliness and negative feelings. However, excessive screen time leads to a lack of sleep, neck pain, poor posture, and mental health problems. In addition to excessive screen time, “doomscrolling” can be extremely harmful due to the type of content being consumed.

What Exactly is Doomscrolling? How Does it Affect Mental Health?

Doomscrolling is defined as an obsessive compulsion to scroll through online social networks and news outlets for long periods of time. Additionally, this involves exposing yourself to an array of “doom and gloom” headlines or pessimistic content that impacts your state of mind. People already have burdens to contend with in their daily lives; work, school, financial struggles, and relationships are challenging enough to maneuver. Doomscrolling only exacerbates anxiety and feelings of despair.

In 2014, UCLA researchers found that participants who spent over six hours on their phones per day after the Boston Marathon bombings experienced acute stress symptoms. Today, more and more catastrophic events are paraded across our screens daily. As the saying goes, you are what you eat. Whether it’s the war in Ukraine, the climate crisis, political news, or negative online comments, consuming distressing content has consequences.

Doomscrolling can make users feel overstimulated, hopeless and fearful of the outside world. At the same time, you probably want to be informed when it comes to major events. How can you navigate the sea of information at your fingertips without harming your mental health?

How to Avoid Doomscrolling

  • Limit your screen time. The best way to avoid doomscrolling is by reducing the amount of time you spend on your phone. If possible, turn it off for a few hours, or set aside time at a specific point in the day for checking your phone. Don’t get into the habit of looking at your phone and refreshing headlines every five minutes. If you spend over 4-5 hours per day on your phone, it’s time to re-evaluate your routine. Doomscrolling is addictive, so if necessary, wean yourself off of your phone slowly rather than going cold turkey.
  • Give yourself other things to focus on. We usually check our phones out of boredom, or to complete one simple task. You might use your phone to check your e-mail, for example, but find yourself reading the news seconds later. If you have other things to focus on, doomscrolling won’t take up as much of your time. Take your dog for a walk, read a good book, create art, or simply have a conversation with a friend. Pick something that brings you joy. 
  • Avoid your devices before bed and at the start of your day. When you first wake up, journal or make yourself breakfast rather than starting the day with a bright screen. Similarly, at night, it’s important to put your phone aside and limit your stimulation levels. This will help you sleep better and wake up feeling more refreshed. There’s nothing wrong with staying informed or checking important information, but you don’t need to be glued to your phone constantly.

Partner with Lead4Life, Inc. Today to Learn More about Mental Health

At Lead4Life, we strive to empower every participant in our programs so that they may find their purpose, achieve their goals, and become poised, productive members of their community. We advocate for those in need and assist every individual by providing compassionate education and valuable resources like mental health tips so that they can make the very best decisions and develop important life, social, and competency skills. Visit our website for more information about mental health or contact us at 240-499-8949.