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Are You DOOMSCROLLING For Information? It Can Impact Your Mental And Physical Health!

If your phone is the first thing you go to when you wake up and the last thing you look at before sleeping, especially during this lockdown, you may be in need of reading this article.

The advent of the COVID-19 has resulted in the birthing of many new things, from the new normal to the social-distancing concerts and restaurants. As I was going through my daily dose of social media and news, I came across the term 'doomscrolling,' another product of the coronavirus pandemic. Some people also call it as doomsurfing.

As the name suggests and as ironic as the situation could get, doomscrolling is nothing but the excessive or the sudden increase in the time you spend online; the act of endlessly scrolling down all those apps in your phone.

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Research suggests that since the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a rampant increase in the number of people and time spent on social media applications daily, especially now that we are all home and have the time in our 'hands' [1][2]. Be it Instagram, Twitter or InShot, or even Google for some news, doomscrolling is no way helpful to you or your mental health.

Today, I will tell you if and how you have been Doomscrolling and how it can be avoided.

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What Is Doomscrolling? Are You Doing It?

As previously mentioned, doomscrolling is not just the act of continuously scrolling through your news and social media applications, but also talks about the way this obsessive behaviour can increase your risk of being exposed to FAKE NEWS [3].

It is 2020 and fake news act as nothing but portals of manipulative and misdirected information published to influence the readers in a specific way, and it is something we have seen unfolding right in front of our eyes.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been several fake news which actually went on to get the attention of any important or vital piece of information, resulting in the public being misguided into doing things such as drinking bleach to kill the virus or not eating ice-cream and other cold food as the sole preventive measure against the SARS-CoV-2 virus [4][5].

So, what really is doomscrolling? It refers to the act of excessively reading upsetting news on your phone or computer. Although the term doomsurfing has been in existence for some time, the pandemic has indeed pushed its popularity.

As per recent reports, Twitter's daily use numbers have jumped 24 per cent since the start of the pandemic, while Facebook's numbers are up 27 per cent [6]. Many people scroll to get some peace of mind, which mental health experts point out, may provide momentary relief but will result in elevated levels of stress and anxiety [7].

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Can Doomscrolling Negatively Affect Your Health?

In a single word, YES. Doomscrolling can and will affect your mental health, leading to anxiety and negative emotions [8]. When you are constantly surrounded by negative news, your brain naturally pushes you to extremity. In the case of an individual with mental health issues, this act can be double the trouble.

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However, even if you are a regular ‘doomscroller,' it does not mean that you will develop clinical depression or an anxiety disorder. Still, it can directly cause worsened mood or an anxiety level rise [9].

The uncertainty of not knowing what will happen next can make it difficult for you to put the phone down and not look at it every two seconds. But, with our minds being wired to look out for threats, the more time you keep scrolling, the more, the more anxious you get.

"Unfortunately, doomscrolling has worsened during the pandemic because people are hypervigilant for danger and are more likely to seek information in hopes of finding a way to control the problem," said a mental health expert in an interview on doomscrolling during COVID-19 [10].

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How Does Doomscrolling Negatively Affect Your Health?

Doomscrolling and your physical health

The consequences of doomscrolling are not just limited to your mental health but also your physical health [12]. Your mental health is connected to physical health; therefore, the negative habit of doomscrolling can negatively affect the physical body, from interfering with sleep to creating a craving for comfort (read junk) foods. In addition to this, chronic levels of elevated stress hormones can cause heart disease, diabetes, and obesity [13].

Now that you are aware of the negative side of doomscrolling let us take a look at the different ways it can hamper one's mental and physical health.

• Excessive social media use can trigger increased feelings of depression and loneliness [14].

• Continually focusing on news and reports can raise the risk of negative mental health effects.

• Mental health experts point out that for some people, doomscrolling can become an unsatisfying addiction, as it may provide them with a sense of safety and security, which is not long-lasting.

• New bouts of information every minute can cause a constant, low-level panic.

• People can suffer from cognitive distortions such as catastrophising and result in panic attacks [15].

• Disrupts sleep and reduces your attentiveness and overall performance.

• In the long term, this act can increase the levels of the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline [13].

• Increased levels of stress can cause ulcers.

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How To Stop Doomscrolling?

So how can you get the required information without being sucked into the black hole of fake news and stress? By creating restrictions and boundaries for your social media/phone use.

• Decide in advance how much time you want to spend reading the news each day.

• Allot yourself a specific time for social media/news use and set a timer.

• Read news only from reliable and reputable sources.

• Spend time with your family and friends to keep yourself positively engaged.

• Try out new things such as upcycling (make your old saree into a new dress), cooking, volunteering, baking, gardening etc.

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On A Final Note…

Indeed, being cautious is always safe, and a little stress can be a great motivator - but chronic stress during at a pandemic can lead to one thing and one thing only - chaos, both mentally and physically.

While it is imperative to stay up to date on the information around you, one has to be essentially careful in choosing the right kind of portal. Thanks to the fact-checkers that make the job relatively easier for readers like us.

Do remember that checking your phone for an extra two hours every night will not stop the apocalypse, but what it can do is negatively impact your psychological and emotional well-being.