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    Beware of Binge-watching Negative News

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Media coverage of tragic events happens almost immediately and continues for days. While being informed is important, there are risks associated with compulsive viewing of reports such as those coming out of Brussels this week.

“You can kind of be bombarded by the news,” says Dr. Sheila Jowsey, a Mayo Clinic psychiatrist.

Dr. Jowsey says, during repetitive coverage of negative news, it’s important to be aware of, and avoid, media overload. The graphic images create an emotional reaction that can amplify the impact of the information being conveyed. For individuals with a past history of trauma exposure, it may reactivate experiences of previous distress.

Watch Dr. Sheila Jowsey's comments on binge-watching negative news.

“You have to be careful, especially if there are very frightening or distressing images,” explains Dr. Jowsey. “Once you’ve seen them, don’t go back again and again, and let yourself be stimulated and distressed.”

This is especially true in young children. Dr. Jowsey says, adults should limit children’s exposure to graphic media images. “If they do see disturbing images, offer them the opportunity to speak about it.”

Symptoms of excess negative media coverage include:

  • Sleep disruptons
  • Appetite changes
  • Mood changes
  • Increased anxiety levels
  • Feelings of hopelessness

If bad news is creating persistent symptoms for you, Dr. Jowsey suggests making an appointment with your doctor or a counselor.

Watch Dr. Sheila Jowsey's comments on symptoms of too much media.

Reaching out to those who have been affected by tragic events also can help you cope with the feeling of helplessness in the face of tragedy. “Support organizations that support others,” says Dr. Jowsey. “Volunteer to raise funds, gather supplies or raise awareness of the need for assistance. These can all be meaningful ways of helping others.”

Also, Dr. Jowsey says, in cycles of widespread negative news, it’s important to keep things in perspective. Sensational, frightening stories are often in the news, but many positive, affirming activities occur, too. 

“Try to find out more about the successes in the world,” Dr. Jowsey adds. “See if you can add your energy and ability to those efforts. Volunteer and help others, and that will help to offset the drumbeat of bad news.”