Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 12/29/2022
It happens to everyone. We get on our phones or computers to look at one thing, then all of a sudden, we’ve been scrolling for hours. While getting sucked into the rabbit hole of social media feeds happens to the best of us, you might be participating in a more damaging habit: doomscrolling.
Do you find yourself going farther and farther down a seemingly endless hole of bad news? Or maybe you’re searching “why anxious while scrolling” because of the running loop of bad thoughts and constant worry going through your head after looking at the news.
Though it’s a relatively new term and not an official mental health condition, doomscrolling can cause emotional distress and impact your quality of life. We’ll go over the effects of doomscrolling and how to break the habit below.
During uncertain times or global events, we might keep a closer eye on the news to stay up-to-date. Or it might seem like there’s a constant state of negative news out in the world — news we can’t tear our eyes away from.
Doomscrolling (sometimes called doomsurfing) is the habit of continuously browsing the internet or social media sites for bad news — even when it leads to feelings of depression or anxiety. One study referred to this habit as social media panic.
You might continuously scroll through the news intentionally or unintentionally. Maybe we tell ourselves “five more minutes” or that we’re looking for answers to our questions. Or we might constantly look through news sites to confirm how we’re already feeling — if you’re feeling bad or down, reading bad news confirms that mindset.
So if you’re feeling worried after endlessly consuming doom-and-gloom news, you’ve most likely fallen victim to doomscrolling.
Have you looked up “why anxious while scrolling” recently? The most likely answer is that you’ve been doomscrolling.
We know social media can affect anxiety levels and contribute to depression, but doomscrolling specifically can also harm mental health.
A study found that negative news consumption is connected to increased levels of anxiety, fear and sadness. Those who already deal with anxiety disorders — like generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or panic attacks — may be more prone to doomscrolling.
Doomscrolling can also be a result of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), an anxiety disorder characterized by recurring, unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and repetitive behaviors (compulsions).
While you continuously think about a particular topic (the news or current events), you might repetitively look at bad news stories to try and reduce your anxiety.
Sleep issues may also occur following doomscrolling, especially if you check the news before bed. Anxious thoughts can keep you up at night, leading to insomnia and other sleep issues.
Why do we have these reactions to a continual feed of negative news? By constantly giving our brains bad news, we’re putting ourselves under stress and causing our bodies to release the stress hormone cortisol.High levels of cortisol can wear us out, causing fatigue, inflammation and a weakened immune system.
We may get temporary reassurance from constantly checking the news, but doomsurfing can worsen our mood, stress, depression or anxiety over time.
While it may seem like there’s bottomless doom-and-gloom news, the good news is you can stop doomscrolling.
One way to stop doomscrolling (or reduce the amount of time spent doomsurfing) is to limit your access to news feeds or set boundaries on your news intake.
Try setting a timer every time you look at the news or a social media site, or install an app to track how long you spend on certain platforms. You can even take a vacation from social media, which one small study found can improve anxiety, depression and overall well-being.
Mindfulness — the practice of being completely present — can help you be more aware of how negative news stories make you feel.
You can learn more about how to practice mindfulness and its benefits with our guide.
If doomscrolling or wondering about the state of the world is causing anxiety, talking about your thoughts and feelings could be a helpful way to find relief. Try chatting with friends and family who support you. You could also talk to a mental health professional through psychotherapy.
Psychotherapy or talk therapy for anxiety is a fairly successful treatment that can help you identify unhealthy thoughts and learn helpful habits.
Get connected with a licensed therapist online to find what type of therapy is best for your situation.
If you start your day doomscrolling, try leaving your phone in another room or drawer when you go to bed. Instead of reaching for your phone first thing in the morning, you can implement a relaxing routine to begin the day on a more positive note.
Another way to relax and calm down anxious thoughts running through your mind? Exercise. Physical activity can help you manage your mental health, even if it's just a quick walk around the block.
If doomscrolling is causing anxiety or depressive symptoms, your healthcare provider may recommend medication. There are several options for anxiety and depression, including:
Antidepressants. These medications are commonly prescribed for depression (and sometimes anxiety) and can help improve your mood. Examples include sertraline (Zoloft®), escitalopram (Lexapro®) and duloxetine (Cymbalta®). This full antidepressant list covers many of the common antidepressants available today.
Anxiety medications. Anxiety medications may be used to help manage physical symptoms as well as improve your overall mood. These include certain antidepressants, benzodiazepines and beta-blockers. Our guide on anxiety medications offers an in-depth look into the various options.
If you spend time endlessly scrolling through bad news, take this as your sign to try and stop. Doomscrolling — the act of continuously scrolling through negative news online — can negatively affect your mental health. Even taking one look at bad news headlines could spike your anxiety levels.
It might feel like doomscrolling has taken over your life, but it’s possible to break this bad news habit. To reduce social media panic, try cutting back on your time spent on social media and news sites or even completely blocking certain apps.
You can also use exercise and therapy to reduce anxiety and manage stress. Connect with a licensed therapist online to take the first step.