How To Stop Doom Scrolling: Understanding It’s Impact on Mental Health

how to stop doom scrolling
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Last Updated on: 10th May 2024, 08:51 pm

How To Stop Doom Scrolling: Understanding It's Impact on Mental Health | OC Revive

What Is Doom Scrolling and Why Do We Do It?

Doomscrolling refers to the act of consuming vast quantities of negative news on social media, news sites, or other online platforms. It’s often a mindless activity – we scroll and scroll with a sense of impending doom, feeling increasingly overwhelmed without really knowing why. Here’s a breakdown of the key factors that contribute to this habit:

  • The Brain’s Negativity Bias: Evolutionarily, our brains are wired to prioritize negative information. This negativity bias was crucial for survival in the past, alerting us to potential dangers and threats. However, in our modern world with 24/7 news, this bias can lead us to fixate on negative news far out of proportion with actual risks.

  • The Illusion of Control: When faced with unsettling global events or even personal anxieties, doomscrolling can create a false sense of control. We may feel that by constantly consuming information, we are somehow better prepared or more in control, even though this endless scrolling actually worsens our anxiety and sense of helplessness.

  • Boredom and Procrastination: Doomscrolling is an easy, readily available distraction. When we’re bored, stressed, or procrastinating on tasks, the lure of social media and the endless stream of news provides a quick mental escape, however unhealthy that escape may be.

FOMO (Fear of Missing Out): In our always-connected world, there’s a nagging fear of missing out on the latest news or social media updates. Doomscrolling can cater to this FOMO, promising to keep us constantly informed, even if the information is primarily negative and our well-being suffers because of it.

What does doom scrolling do to your brain?

While it may seem like a harmless way to pass the time, doomscrolling can have serious consequences for our mental well-being. Here’s a breakdown of its most common effects:

  • Increased Anxiety and Stress: Our bodies are designed to handle stress in short bursts. Doomscrolling exposes us to a relentless stream of negative news and information, triggering our fight-or-flight response. This chronic state of heightened anxiety can make it incredibly difficult to relax, unwind, and focus on the positive aspects of our lives. Over time, this can lead to generalized anxiety disorders or worsen existing anxiety struggles.

     

  • Depression and Low Mood: The constant focus on negativity, disasters, and global problems can fuel feelings of despair and hopelessness, major contributors to depression. Doomscrolling reinforces a negative outlook, making it harder to see the good in the world or feel optimistic about the future. For those prone to depression, it can worsen existing symptoms or even trigger depressive episodes.

     

  • Distorted Worldview: When our primary source of information is an endless stream of bad news, our perception of the world can become warped. We might overestimate the frequency of danger and negativity, leading to a cynical and pessimistic outlook. This contributes to heightened anxiety and can make it hard to find hope or believe in positive change.

     

  • Poor Sleep: Doomscrolling is a double-whammy for sleep. First, the blue light from our phones suppresses melatonin production, the hormone that regulates our sleep-wake cycle. Secondly, the emotional distress and anxiety triggered by negative content make it difficult to calm our minds and bodies for restful sleep. This disrupted sleep then feeds into a vicious cycle, exacerbating mental health problems.

     

Addiction and Compulsion: Our brains are wired for reward. The unpredictable nature of social media and news feeds, with the potential for shocking updates or viral posts, can trigger dopamine release – the same neurotransmitter involved in addiction pathways. This makes doomscrolling a potentially habit-forming behavior, marked by feelings of compulsion and difficulty stopping despite negative consequences.

How to Recognize Doomscrolling Triggers

The first step to replacing doomscrolling is becoming aware of the situations, emotions, and times of day that make you most susceptible to the habit. Understanding these triggers is key to developing effective strategies to break the cycle. Here’s how to pinpoint them:

  • Specific Emotions: Our emotional states play a significant role in triggering doomscrolling. Pay attention to what you’re feeling right before you find yourself scrolling. Common culprits include:
    • Anxiety: Do you turn to doomscrolling to numb anxious feelings or distract yourself from worries?
    • Boredom: Is doomscrolling a way to fill the void when you feel bored or understimulated?
    • Loneliness: Do you scroll through social media to seek connection or alleviate feelings of isolation?
    • Stress: Does doomscrolling provide a temporary escape when you’re feeling overwhelmed?
  • Times of Day: Track when you’re most likely to engage in doomscrolling. Try to identify specific patterns:
    • First thing in the morning: Do you start your day with a wave of negativity from news or social media?
    • Breaks at work: Is doomscrolling your go-to activity during those short moments of downtime?
    • Before bed: Do you scroll endlessly as a way to unwind, only to have it worsen your sleep?
  • External Events: Observe how your scrolling behavior fluctuates based on what’s going on in the world or your personal life:
    • Major news events: Do you feel a compulsion to stay glued to newsfeeds during crises or elections?

Personal stressors: Does your doomscrolling escalate when you’re facing stressful situations or life changes?

Identifying Your Doom Scrolling Triggers

  • To get a clear picture of your own triggers, try this for a week:

    1. Keep a Log: Carry a small notebook or use a note-taking app on your phone.
    2. Jot it Down: Each time you find yourself doomscrolling, note down the time of day, how you were feeling beforehand, and if any specific events might have prompted the behavior.
    3. Look for Patterns: At the end of the week, review your log. Can you spot any consistent trends in terms of emotions, timing, or external events that trigger the habit?

    This awareness is the cornerstone of overcoming doomscrolling. Once you know your triggers, you can start putting targeted strategies in place to address them.

What is the antidote to doom scrolling?

The good news is, breaking the doomscrolling habit is entirely possible. Here’s a deeper look at how to set digital boundaries and reclaim your time:

Set Digital Boundaries

  • App Timers: Take advantage of the tools available to you. Most smartphones now have built-in screen time trackers that show you which apps are the biggest time-sucks. Beyond tracking, you can set strict daily time limits for social media, news sites, or other triggering apps. There are also dedicated apps with more robust features for blocking these sites or apps at certain times.

  • Airplane Mode: Your weapon for forced disconnect. When you need focused work time, a relaxing meal with loved ones, or an undistracted walk in nature, put your phone on airplane mode to sever the connection completely. Do this in short increments initially if a complete “cold turkey” quit sounds too daunting.

  • Notifications Off: Every buzz and beep calls our attention back to our phones. Reduce the temptation by turning off notifications for any app that isn’t truly urgent. Better yet, experiment with disabling all non-essential notifications for set periods of time.

  • Device-Free Zones: Creating sacred spaces away from your phone is crucial. Your bedroom is a prime candidate – keep the phone out for better sleep. Other zones might be the kitchen table during meals, your workspace, or your designated meditation corner.

  • Batch Your Online Time: Rather than constantly checking notifications, designate specific times to catch up. For example, check your social media for 15 minutes twice a day. This gives you necessary updates while reducing the mindless scrolling in between.

  • Out of Sight, Out of Mind: Don’t leave your phone constantly in your line of vision. Put it away in a drawer, in your bag, or leave it charging in another room when you want to truly focus. Physical distance creates psychological distance.

Important Tip: Start with just one or two of these changes at a time. Trying to overhaul every digital habit at once can feel overwhelming and set you up for failure. Gradual and consistent change is more sustainable!

doom scrolling

Engage in Mindful Activities

Instead of mindless scrolling, shift your focus to activities that promote well-being:

  • Meditation and Deep Breathing: Simple mindfulness practices calm the nervous system and counter the anxiety triggered by doomscrolling.
  • Spend Time in Nature: Connect with the natural world through walks, hikes, or simply sitting outside, which has proven mental health benefits.
  • Physical Exercise: Boost mood, reduce stress, and improve sleep by engaging in regular physical activity.

Hobbies and Creative Pursuits: Rekindle old hobbies or explore new ones – painting, writing, music, etc. – for fulfillment and positive focus.

Replace Screen Time with Human Connection

Social connection is a fundamental human need, and it’s one of the best ways to combat the feelings of isolation and negativity fueled by doomscrolling. Here’s how to make it a priority:

  • Call a Friend or Loved One: Texting is convenient, but picking up the phone for a real voice-to-voice conversation offers deeper connection. Schedule regular phone dates with friends who live far away, or make a point to call your parents or grandparents more often instead of just sending a text.

  • Join a Club or Group: Sharing interests with others builds a sense of community and belonging. Consider:

    • Book clubs: Enjoy the pleasure of reading and the engaging discussions that follow.
    • Sports teams: Get active and have fun through recreational sports leagues or social sports groups.
    • Hobby groups: Explore shared interests like painting, music, board games, hiking, etc., to make new friends. Look for these through online community boards or platforms like Meetup.
    • Local community groups: Connect with neighbors and get involved in community events or projects.
  • Volunteer: Giving back not only helps you improve the lives of others but also provides a sense of purpose and social connection within a community of like-minded people. Look for volunteer opportunities that align with your passions, whether it’s animal welfare, environmental causes, mentoring, or helping the homeless.

  • Prioritize In-Person Gatherings: While social media can be useful for staying in touch, prioritize face-to-face connection whenever possible. Instead of endless online chats, suggest meeting up for coffee, a walk, or dinner with a friend.

  • Quality over Quantity: It’s not about having hundreds of online connections but nurturing a few meaningful relationships. Focus on deepening the connections you already have and being fully present when spending time with loved ones.

Extra tip: Be proactive in making plans! We often rely on others to initiate hangouts. Take the lead by suggesting activities, scheduling calls, or organizing get-togethers.

Seek Out Positive and Uplifting Content

It’s essential not to simply create a content void but to replace negative input with positive alternatives.

  • Inspirational Accounts: Seek out social media pages that focus on positivity, kindness, or beautiful imagery.
  • Uplifting Podcasts: Find podcasts focused on personal growth, humor, or inspiring stories.
  • Good News Websites: Several websites specifically curate positive and solution-oriented news.

Read a Good Book: Immerse yourself in a captivating novel or uplifting non-fiction work.

Address Underlying Issues

Sometimes, doomscrolling isn’t just a bad habit but a symptom of deeper challenges with anxiety, depression, or other mental health concerns. If this resonates with you, seeking further professional support is a valuable act of self-care:

  • Therapy: Several types of talk therapy can be incredibly helpful:

    • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): Helps you identify negative thought patterns and develop healthier coping mechanisms in the face of stress and anxiety. This can be particularly effective in breaking the doomscrolling cycle.
    • Psychodynamic Therapy: Explores past experiences and emotional patterns contributing to current behaviors, including unhealthy digital habits.
    • Other Therapies: Depending on your needs, mindfulness-based therapies, acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), or other modalities could be beneficial.
  • Support Groups: Sharing your experiences with others facing similar struggles can be a powerful source of validation and support. Look for support groups specifically focused on anxiety, depression, or even internet/technology addiction. You can find these groups through local mental health clinics or online directories.

  • Online Resources: While they shouldn’t replace in-person therapy if needed, there is a wealth of reputable mental health resources available online:

    • Websites: Organizations like the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), or the American Psychological Association (APA) provide information, self-assessment tools, and resources to help with anxiety and depression.
    • Online Therapy Platforms: Services like BetterHelp or Talkspace offer access to licensed therapists for virtual counseling. This can be a more accessible option if transportation or in-person therapy feels intimidating.

Important Notes:

  • Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help: Seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness. If doomscrolling feels tied to emotional distress you’re struggling to manage alone, there are professionals who want to help.

Finding the Right Therapist: It’s important to find a therapist you connect with and who has expertise in areas relevant to your needs. Psychology Today’s directory is a good place to start your search and narrow down providers based on location, specialty, and insurance accepted.

Additional Tips to Replace Doom Scrolling

Additional Tips to Replace Doom Scrolling

  • “Declutter” Your Feeds: Your social media feeds should inspire, inform, and uplift rather than drain you. Conduct a social media audit:
    • Unfollow Toxic Accounts: Notice which accounts consistently trigger negativity, comparison, or anxiety, and hit unfollow!
    • Seek Out Positivity: Actively follow accounts that offer inspiration, humor, or share beautiful imagery.
  • Use News Aggregators Wisely: News aggregator sites or apps can be helpful but need to be managed carefully.
    • Customize Your Feed: Prioritize trustworthy sources, and filter out overly sensationalized or negative outlets.
    • Solutions-Oriented Journalism: Some websites are dedicated to reporting on progress and solutions to global problems. Seek these out for a balanced news diet.
    • Set Limits: Even with careful curation, use aggregators with the “batching” method, giving yourself a limited amount of time for updates.
  • Batch Your Information: Avoid being tethered to your newsfeed or phone all day.
    • Designated Times: Choose one or two short windows per day to catch up on news. Stick to a set amount of time (e.g., 15 minutes) to avoid spiraling
    • Turn Off Breaking News Alerts: These constant pings trigger anxiety and a sense of urgency even if the news itself isn’t truly urgent.
  • Start Small: Digital detoxing is a process. Trying to change all your habits at once can be overwhelming and unsustainable.
    • Micro-Changes: Start with one change, like disabling notifications on news apps or setting a 10-minute social media timer.
    • Build on Success: Celebrate even small wins! As you achieve them, add in another small change.

Extra Tip: Don’t just create a void; replace the negative! After unfollowing that anxiety-inducing influencer, immediately seek out and follow an account that brings you joy or knowledge. When you batch your news intake, have a plan for what you will do with all that freed-up time and attention.

Conclusion

Breaking free from doomscrolling is a journey of self-care and prioritization. It takes time and effort, but the rewards for your mental health are absolutely worth it. By being mindful of your triggers, setting boundaries, and finding healthier alternatives, you can regain control over your digital habits and create space for more joy and well-being in your life.

Seeking Treatment? We Can Help!

At OC Revive, as an in-network provider we work with most insurance plans, such as:

  • Tricare
  • Magellan Health
  • First Health Network
  • Cigna
  • Anthem BCBS
  • Aetna
  • Humana
  • TriWest VA
  • UnitedHealthcare
  • Optum
  • UMR
  • Oscar
  • Celtic Insurance
  • Ambetter
  • And More 

If you or a loved one are struggling with mental health challenges or substance abuse, reach out to OC Revive today. Our team of compassionate professionals is here to support your journey towards lasting well-being. Give us a call at 844-514-0665

FAQ's

  • Therapy: Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can be very effective in helping you understand the triggers and thought patterns behind doomscrolling. A therapist can provide strategies to manage the urge to scroll and develop healthier coping mechanisms.
  • Support Groups: Connecting with others who understand your struggles can be empowering. Support groups offer a safe space to share experiences and learn coping skills.
  • Medication: In some cases where doomscrolling is associated with underlying anxiety or depression, medication may be helpful in managing these conditions. Consult a psychiatrist for an evaluation.
  • Ask about their experience: Ask potential therapists if they have experience treating clients with technology-related concerns and compulsive behaviors.
  • Seek specialists: Look for therapists who specialize in internet addiction or anxiety disorders, as there is often an overlap with doomscrolling behaviors.
  • Practice mindfulness: Pay attention to how you feel while scrolling: If you notice yourself feeling anxious or sad, take a break.
  • Set boundaries: Use app timers, schedule tech-free time, or put your phone in another room.
  • Find healthy distractions: Engage in activities that bring you joy or relaxation, like reading, exercising, or spending time in nature.
  • Personalized treatment plan: Our therapists will work with you to understand the root of your doomscrolling and develop a plan to address it.
  • Skill-building: You’ll learn strategies to manage anxiety, resist urges, and develop healthier coping mechanisms for stress.
  • Ongoing support: We are here to support you on your journey towards better mental health and a healthier relationship with technology.
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