Get started
What we treat
Why online therapy
How it works
How it works
Meet the therapists
Wellbeing blog
Log in
Read our latest blog

How can the news affect anxiety?

May 8, 2023
Alexandra Hopkins

How can the news affect anxiety?

Sometimes, the news can feel overwhelming, whether that’s down to disaster headlines that are designed to suck us in, or the sheer volume of information that comes our way. And, with most of us becoming increasingly reliant on the internet during our-day-to-day lives, the news is harder to avoid than ever. It’s there when we open our social media apps and search engines, plus we can even get notifications from news websites sent straight to our devices.

While keeping up to date with the news can help us to stay informed, which is especially helpful in times of crisis and uncertainty, experts agree that too much news can have a negative impact on our physical and mental health. According to a survey by Digital Third Coast, during the pandemic, 68% of people said that the news caused them to feel anxious, while 67% of people said that it caused them to feel burnt out.

With this in mind, it’s a good idea to be conscious about how much news we consume and make sure that we take steps to protect our mental health from overexposure to negative stories.

What is doom-scrolling?

Doom-scrolling is a term that refers to when someone spends an excessive amount of time looking up negative news stories online.

People may feel compelled to doom-scroll for various reasons. Many of us are used to seeing a constant stream of news, and therefore doom-scrolling may feel perfectly normal. Or, perhaps someone has seen something in the news that’s troubled them and they want to find more information on the topic in the hope that gaining a better understanding will provide a resolution. However, instead of feeling better, they can actually become trapped in a vicious cycle which has the opposite effect, leading them to feel anxious and hopeless.

How does negative news affect us?

When we receive bad news, our body interprets this as a threat. It has a physical reaction; releasing adrenaline and cortisol (a stress hormone) which triggers a fight or flight response and increases our anxiety levels. While in small doses, this reaction is relatively harmless, when we sustain this level of stress it can impact our health, leading to symptoms like anxiety, depression, fatigue and difficulty sleeping.

Interestingly, one study shows that after just 14 minutes of watching the news on television, people became more prone to feeling sad and anxious, regardless of whether the news stories they viewed were positive or negative. This research also found that when people were exposed to negative news, their own personal worries were exacerbated, even if these weren’t related to the content of the news stories. Clearly, consuming even a small amount of news each day can take its toll on our emotions.

How to manage our relationship with the news

  • Limit your news intake

Many of us may find ourselves naturally exposed to the news throughout the day, whether that’s via social media, television or conversations with people. Therefore, it’s important to be mindful about how much information we’re willing to consume and set boundaries so that we don’t overstep what we’re comfortable with. Our boundaries can be flexible depending on how we’re feeling that day. For example, if we’re already dealing with negative emotions, we may want to avoid the news as it could exacerbate these feelings.

Practical ways of managing your news intake:

  • Only check the news at certain times of day
  • Avoid the news before bed as it can affect your sleep
  • If you find yourself doom-scrolling, place your phone in another room
  • Turn off or limit news notifications on your phone
  • Unfollow news accounts on social media if they make you feel anxious
  • If someone is talking about the news and it’s triggering you, gently ask if you can change the subject
  • Cultivate optimism

The news is flooded with disaster headlines and overexposure to this negativity takes its toll on our mental health. However, there are ways that potentially help us to cultivate a more positive mindset. Research shows that positive psychology interventions, such as gratitude journaling and imagining a ‘best future self’ can increase feelings of optimism. What’s more is that positive experiences appear to add up; the more of them that we have, the more positive our outlook can become in general.

  • Talk to someone

When there’s a lot going on inside your head, it can help to let your feelings out by talking to someone you trust. This will not only give you another person’s perspective on the matter, it’ll also help you to process your thoughts so that you can then come up with a solution on how to manage the situation.

  • Practice self-care

Take the time to de-stress by doing something that allows you to wind down. This can be especially beneficial after you’ve read or watched the news as a way of shifting your mindset. Perhaps you could have a relaxing bath or watch something lighthearted and uplifting.

  • Seek professional help

If you’re struggling with anxiety, ieso offer online Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) which can help. CBT is a form of talking therapy which can be used to treat anxiety by challenging negative thought patterns, breaking vicious cycles and developing coping strategies. Find out more here.

ieso Online Therapy
This blog has been written by a member of the clinical team at ieso.
Awareness Days
6 Mins
October 9, 2023

Mental health affects us all. This means it's essential that mental health services are equally available to everyone, everywhere. This World Mental Health Day, 10th October, we explore the right to access care.

Awareness Days
5 mins
October 2, 2023

This week is National Work Life Week, a campaign led by the charity, Working Families, to get people talking about wellbeing at work and work-life balance.

Online CBT
8 Mins
September 25, 2023

Have you noticed a change in a friend or family member’s behaviour or mindset? Maybe they’re isolating themselves, worrying more than usual or acting erratically. Here are some tips on how you can support them.