What is Doomscrolling?

Doomscrolling is a phrase that describes the act of scrolling endlessly through news sites, and in particular – seeking out all the ‘bad news’ you can find. During the time of the pandemic, we have all become a little more focused on following the news – with good reason – we need to know what is going on in the world around us. But when you find yourself obsessed with scrolling from one site to the next and the next for hours on end, this is a sign of an addiction to Bad News – or DoomScrolling.

But what is it that makes us scroll endlessly through bad news? The answer is simple – our mind is programmed to protect us, and to make sure we are safe and feel secure. If we feel threatened or frightened in any way, our mind’s problem-solving ability might suggest that we find more information – that we do some research. And research might well lead us to endlessly scrolling through bad news in a fruitless and compulsive need for more information.

But constantly scrolling bad news has the opposite effect – it makes us feel very unsafe. And because we feel unsafe, we feel the need to keep reading more bad news. And so the loop continues – we read bad news because we feel fearful and out of control – and the bad news makes us feel more fearful and out of control, and so we look for more bad news …

To our mind, the feeling of being unsafe is aromatically translated into a warning of danger. And people react to danger in different in different ways. Some people run from it, ignore it, and pretend it doesn’t exist. Some people will face it head on, and assess the situation calmly to take stock, and take appropriate measure of safety.

But some people get pulled into constantly dredging up all the bad news they can find, in some effort to feel in control of the situation. And the more they read, the more out of control they feel, and this leads them to seeking more information about the problem. This becomes an addictive spiral of fear, anxiety and dread which keeps them trapped by wanting ever more ‘information’.

It’s sad, because the very thing that they are trying to control – their fear – actually ends up controlling them.

Is there a specific type of personality who suffers from this?

Well – people who already suffer from anxiety are prime candidates. Negative people and people who focus on negativity, can also get hooked into this pattern. But the sad thing is that often people with unresolved trauma, can be pulled into this, in an effort to try to control the direction of their lives.

But sometimes it is very ordinary people, who just happen to see a negative or frightening piece of news, which triggers the ‘fight or flight’ response – where one is catapulted into a fear-state – where one loses the ability to think straight, and the need to have more information in order to feel safe overrides everything else. And that seeking of more information and looking for answers can easily spiral out of control.

Why is Doomscrolling so addicitive?

When we come across something frightening – such as bad news – it activates what is called, a ‘fight or flight’ state of mind – a state of mental panic. This, in turn activates adrenaline in the body – which gives you a surge of energy – so it feels great – as if you are doing something – fighting the ‘threat’ – because you feel strong and energized. This is rush of energy is called an Adrenalin Rush.

We can understand that lots of adrenaline coursing through our veins can feel pretty good. It increases blood flow to the brain, the heart beats faster, muscles are energized, and the pancreas starts to produce extra sugar to fuel the body.

That is why some people do extreme sports – to activate and feel that Adrenalin Rush. Because adrenaline makes you feel vitally alive.

What is adrenaline and how is it connected to doomscrolling?

Adrenaline is released in the body any time there is a perceived threat. Adrenaline is called the ‘fight or flight’ hormone for a reason.

Long ago when we were living off the land … life was very dangerous – there were wild animals and we could be attacked at any time – so we needed the adrenaline to be able to have lots of energy  – to be able to run and get way from the wild animal, or to fight that wild animal – which was a great thing back then, when we lived off the land and needed to fight off wild animals or run to safety.

But in these modern times where we live in cities and our days are spent behind desks, we no longer have wild animals chasing us – so we don’t need that adrenaline boost – and it gets trapped in the body

Now, a little bit of adrenaline in the body feels good – it gives you energy – and makes you feel strong – as if you are doing something to fight the ‘threat’ – but this is also where the addiction comes in … that feeling of strength and power is addictive … and so we actively seek out the thing which gave us that powerful adrenalin boost – the bad news. And so it goes on.

But pretty soon the body becomes flooded with all the trapped adrenaline, and an overload of unreleased adrenalin very quickly transforms into anxiety. And the reason adrenaline becomes trapped in the body, is because there is no physical activity to release it – – because we are no longer needing to run away from wild animals or fight them off  – so the adrenaline cannot be released and transforms into anxiety.

And when we are anxious and frightened – we seek out more bad news – which leads to more adrenaline – which leads to more anxiety – which leads to endless doomscrolling. 

Why is too much adrenaline a problem in our body?

 Ultimately too much adrenaline flowing in the body on an ongoing basis – apart from causing anxiety – can also lead to health problems such as weight gain, high blood pressure, insomnia, headaches  and ultimately Adrenal Fatigue

What is Adrenal fatigue?

At some point the demand on your adrenal glands to constantly produce more and more adrenaline becomes too much for our adrenal glands. The adrenal glands become overworked from the high demand and can no longer produce the adrenaline we need – this leads to adrenal fatigue & exhaustion .. which causes anxiety and fear and a feeling that ‘something is wrong in my body’ – and a feeling of fear – which then can be shortened to – Something Is Wrong

When there is a feeling that Something is Wrong – these can quickly become feelings of dread, helplessness, exhaustion and depression  – which fuels more Doomscrolling.

What can be done to take control of the situation?

  • Exercise is one of the best ways to release that trapped adrenaline. Exercise also releases endorphins – which is a natural antidepressant
  • Stop scrolling and take a few deep breaths – breathing slows down the heart rate and normalizes the hormones
  • Take up meditation & yoga – to learn to connect to inner peace and live in the moment
  • Reduce caffeine intake – stimulants make anxiety worse
  • Reduce alcohol intake – alcohol is a depressant and can exacerbate the feelings of dread and despair
  • Eat a balanced healthy diet – avoid unhealthy fatty foods and fast foods
  • Avoid sugar – sugar gives you a quick ‘high’ but very quickly drops you into low blood sugar – which sends alarm signals through the body and activated that same ‘fight or flight’ panic – which creates more of a demand for adrenalin

Can Hypnosis Help?

Yes – hypnosis is an amazing way to overcome anxiety, depression and stress. Hypnosis is a very relaxing process which can help bring the body and mind back into balance – hypnosis can also teach you how to control your own mind, so that you are no longer a victim of your emotions. Hypnotherapy can help you to take control of negative thoughts and switch to feelings of ease in life and a strong feeling of safety and security.

Hypnotherapy is also a gentle but powerful way to overcome past trauma, become more confident, happy and fulfilled.

What else can be done?

Avoid those sites with all that bad news! Put a limit on the amount of time you want to spend on checking the news.  Only go to verified sites – such as official authenticated news sites.

And one last thought – there are plenty of people out here who are highly qualified to sort out these problems – that’s their job – leave the job of sorting out the problems to the professionals whose job it is to sort out those problems.

Sharon was interviewed by NewzRoom Afrika on DSTV Channel 405: 

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