‘Doomscrolling’ can take toll on mental health -- here’s how to stop

Experts say it’s important to break habit of excessive screen time, scrolling

The pandemic has given rise to something called 'doomscrolling,' and it can be bad for your health. Here are some tips to help you stop.

You may not have heard of “doomscrolling,” but there’s a good chance you’re doing it -- and experts say it can take a toll on your mental health.

The coronavirus pandemic, which forced so many online and indoors, has led to a dramatic increase in screen time for many, and a lot of those hours have been devoted to what experts call doomscrolling.

It’s an unhealthy habit for several reasons, and one that’s well worth the effort to break.

“Most people who have moved on into an addiction don’t recognize that they’re doomscrolling,” said psychologist Margaret Cochran. “People who do a lot of doomscrolling often look like a depressed person. You have trouble sleeping, you may lose your appetite. You will have difficulty with relationships.”

Related: How experts say pandemic has impacted mental health

College student Laura Fields says as the stress of the past year became too much, she fell into a ritual of scrolling through her news feed at all hours.

“I couldn’t focus on my work,” Fields said. “I thought that maybe it’s time to take a step back.”

Experts like Cochran say the excessive scrolling can take a toll on your mental health -- but those effects are reversible.

Cochran says the best way to stop scrolling is to find a way to interrupt the cycle, particularly by replacing the bad habit with a positive distraction. According to the expert, people should find other things to do that are better for them and their health, such as physical exercise.

Exercise boosts those feel-good hormones, improves sleep and physically prevents you from being on your phone.

Another suggestion is to start a daily gratitude journal, which Cochran says can help rewire your brain in a positive way.

For those looking to quit doomscrolling, begin by staying off of social media for at least 72 hours. If that’s not possible, decrease the amount of time you spend online each day.

“Within a month, you should be feeling pretty good again,” Cochran said.

Fields said she found relief by writing about her experiences in her school newspaper, where she felt other students would be able to relate to her struggles.

Related: Cleaning, organizing your home could improve your mental health

The most important thing to remember, according to Cochran, is that there is life beyond social media.

Mental health experts say the key is to find a healthy balance. If you’re constantly checking social media or feel like you’re missing out when you’re not, that’s a good sign that it’s time to make changes.

If you have trouble stopping or cutting back, talk about it with someone you trust, or seek professional help.

More: Good Health news & tips

About the Author:

Dr. McGeorge can be seen on Local 4 News helping Metro Detroiters with health concerns when he isn't helping save lives in the emergency room at Henry Ford Hospital.