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5 Tips To Halt Doomscrolling

5 Tips To Halt Doomscrolling
Ⓒ Provided by Insider

By Carla Delgado, Insider

There's nothing like a global pandemic to flood your news feeds with negative, distressing, and concerning content. Incidentally, this has sparked a certain ritualistic, uncontrollable behavior in many of us that's affecting our health.

Since the beginning of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, many people have experienced the obsessive drive to persistently scroll through their news and social media feeds and pay attention to distressing or generally negative information, aka "doomscrolling" or "doomsurfing."

Note: Doomscrolling got so popular that the Macquarie Dictionary selected it as the Committee's Choice Word of the Year 2020. However, you won't find it in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary just yet.


The act of endlessly scrolling and seeing distressing information can affect your mental health by reinforcing negative thoughts or causing a sense of helplessness. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to stop the cycle.

Here's why you may be drawn to doomscrolling and how to avoid it moving forward.

Causes of doomscrolling

There are several contributing factors that may cause doomscrolling, which include:

  • Negativity bias: Negativity bias — the inclination to pay attention to, learn from, or use negative information — may be positively linked to doomscrolling. 
  • Uncertainty: Doomscrolling is pervasive in situations when an individual needs to know about a topic that is unclear or with multiple conflicting perspectives, says Jacob Fisher, PhD, assistant professor of advertising at UIUC and a faculty researcher at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology. 
  • Anxiety: Some individuals use doomscrolling to manage their anxiety. However, the habit can also cause further anxiety. 
  • Fear of missing out (FOMO): Doomscrolling may be associated with FOMO and the belief that an individual has to be vigilant so as not to miss anything important, says Bethany Teachman, PhD, professor of psychology and director of clinical training at the University of Virginia.
  • Lack of self-control: The lack of restraint when it comes to social media use may play a big role in the urge to doomscroll. 

Reading the news to stay updated on current events is important, but doomscrolling is different from simply wanting to stay informed.

"A person who is 'doomscrolling' often continues to engage with the information even after they've learned much more than they would reasonably need to know about the topics they are scrolling through," says Fisher.

People with greater neuroticism — the tendency to experience negative emotions such as irritability, anger, and emotional instability — may be more likely to engage in doomscrolling than others.

Why doomscrolling is so unhealthy

Doomscrolling has been shown to cause feelings of uncertainty, apprehension, fear, and distress. It can also damage your general mood and sense of well-being, especially when it becomes a habit, says Fisher.

For example, the increased consumption of COVID-related news has been associated with decreased mental health, higher levels of anxiety, and increased levels of depression.

Focusing on negative information can also disrupt your sleep, affect your ability to work, or get in the way of enjoying your time with friends and family, says Teachman. If you're so stressed out that you can't relax, that's a major problem since chronic stress increases the risk of heart problems like stroke, heart attack, or hypertension.

"Repeatedly engaging with information that makes you feel confused, overwhelmed, and hopeless will have a negative influence on how you feel on a day-to-day basis," says Fisher.

Read More: How to Share Your Phone with Others in a Safe Way

5 ways to stop doomscrolling

If you often find yourself lost in doomscrolling on social media or other news sites, there are some strategies you can try to stop it.

1. Block out time for social media

On average, Americans spend about two hours and three minutes on social media every day. It's easy to lose track of time while scrolling through Facebook, Twitter, and other feeds, so blocking out a certain time in the day to check the news may be helpful.

For example, you can try limiting news consumption to 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes at the end of the workday, says Teachman.

Important: Refrain from using social media 30 minutes before bed to avoid ruining the quality and length of your sleep.


Setting boundaries on news intake help strike a reasonable balance where you can stay informed without getting totally overwhelmed, says Teachman.

2. Download helpful apps

If you can't stick to a set time limit, try some of the following apps for help:

Social Fever tracks social media usage and allows you to set daily time limits, giving off an alert when they have been exceeded. StayFree, which is available on both smartphones and personal computers, can block chosen applications and websites to restrict their usage. If you often find yourself doomscrolling on Facebook or Twitter, you should try to establish a healthier relationship with social media. The best way to do that would be to use social media less often, says Fisher.

3. Get a hobby

People often use social media or read news websites to alleviate boredom, which may result in doomscrolling. If you're feeling bored, try doing leisure activities that you often enjoy, which helps reduce boredom.

Fisher recommends that individuals engage in hobbies that make them feel relaxed or connected to themselves, such as cooking, reading, hiking, or doing something artistic.

4. Exercise

Instead of sitting on the couch or lying in bed doomscrolling, make the conscious choice to exercise. Maybe after checking the news, you can try going for a walk to avoid getting stuck reading story after story, says Teachman.

Exercising is a great way to cope with doomscrolling tendencies because it improves your mood. It also eases anxiety by taking your mind off the cycle of negative thoughts and reduces stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline while also releasing happy hormones called endorphins.

Experts recommend about 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week for good mental and physical health.

5. Seek more positive stories

It's appropriate that you're reading the news to be informed about current events, but focusing on negative stories might intensify the sense of danger and catastrophe, so there has to be a balance, says Teachman.

Seeking out positive stories or information that highlights how situations are going well may prevent the harmful tendency to focus only on negative news.

You can visit various websites that are dedicated to reporting positive stories, such as the Good News Network or Positive News.

What the media can do better

Doomscrolling is often framed as the individual responsibility of a user, but it can also be a result of the business model that powers social media, says Fisher.

"Social media sites are painstakingly designed — by some of the world's brightest and most well-paid people — to be attention-grabbing and attention-keeping, so it may feel like you're fighting an uphill battle," he adds.

In particular, the algorithms behind social media platforms are generally built to catch the attention of their users and increase their engagement. The type of content that you engage with is then amplified as much as possible to hold your attention.

So, if you typically click on articles about the climate crisis, rising COVID rates, or concerns of an economic recession, then you will probably get more of that same content the next time you log on.

Social media platforms and other big tech companies have a responsibility to ensure that users can structure their digital lives in a way that lets them retain agency over their attention and focus on things that matter to them, says Fisher.

"Much like laws and policies have been put into place to ensure we design physical walkways and roads to be safe, accessible, well-lit, and well-labeled, I think that we need to take a long, hard look at how we can start to do the same for the digital information 'highways' we spend more and more of our lives navigating," he adds.

Statutory regulation and oversight of social media companies may enhance platform accountability, which could increase the transparency of their algorithmic systems and allow users to opt out of profiling and personalization.

In addition to presenting a wide range of perspectives regarding current events, news outlets can make a point of including stories that provide evidence-based suggestions for managing mental health and finding help, says Teachman.

Important: If your feelings of anxiety and/or hopelessness have been persistently high for weeks or months, you are encouraged to reach out for professional evaluation. You can call Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)'s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP.


Insider's takeaway

Doomscrolling may be caused by a variety of factors, such as anxiety, uncertainty, and lack of self-control. Moreover, social media algorithms are designed to engage you to keep scrolling, making it that much harder to turn away.

However, users may be able to avoid the cycle of negative information by establishing a better relationship with social media, engaging in hobbies and physical activity, and deliberately seeking positive stories.

"It is okay to feel sad and anxious when reading the news. There are many awful things happening and those are natural reactions. The important thing is not to stay immersed in the misery — set limits and take breaks," says Teachman.

See more at Insider




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Tech Magazine: 5 Tips To Halt Doomscrolling
5 Tips To Halt Doomscrolling
Doomscrolling is an obsessive need to read negative news and other information constantly, regardless of how harmful it is to your mental health.
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