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News-Induced Depression

News-induced Depression | Beaches Therapy Group

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Almost a century ago (1929 – 1939), the Great Depression caused enormous financial distress across the world. As if that was not enough, World War II broke out at the tail end of that period in 1939 and lasted until 1945. Anyone who lived through those times described life as harsh and full of uncertainty. In fact, we could draw a few parallels to present-day world affairs.

The Pandemic brought a sudden hard stop to commercial and social activities, causing global chaos. Everyone recalibrated their professional, private and social lives to stay safe from the virus. The uncertainty, along with physical, emotional and financial strain created perfect triggers for anxiety and depression. Then, just as we were getting used to co-existing with the virus as well as we could, out of nowhere came the war in Ukraine. Even if you are not impacted directly by the war, the images of people fleeing, families torn apart and loss of life are incredibly difficult to watch.

Staying informed about the goings-on in the world played as big a role a century ago, as it is today. However, the way we consume news is vastly different. Radio dominated the airwaves in the 1930s and families huddled around it once a day in the evenings for updates. In the 1940’s, this ritual transitioned to TV sets just after dinner. Today, we can access the news 24/7 from anywhere. In addition, the war has caused a sudden rise in oil and commodity prices, making life expensive, and for some unaffordable. Anxiety is palpable in the air and unsurprisingly, mental health practitioners are noticing an uptick in news-induced depression.

Why News-Induced Depression Occurs

Humans are inherently attracted to negativity. Over the years, psychologists have studied this “negativity bias” in conjunction with attention, learning, formation of impressions, risk-taking, memory and decision making. The general conclusion is that, in our brains, bad stimuli are stronger than good ones. Humans process negative information more thoroughly than neutral and good information.

The roots of this phenomenon go back to the evolution of our brain and nervous system where the ability to react strongly and swiftly to negative conditions helped us survive. Consequently, this same mechanism magnetizes our attention to news coverage about war, disasters, crime, humanitarian strife, etc. Media outlets know all too well how breaking bad news stories makes ratings soar. In 2021, individuals from the Harvard Business School analyzed social media data and concluded, “…doom-and-gloom tweets beat sunshine and rainbows“. They are “…15% more prevalent…” and “…engage more users“.

Undoubtedly, we are consuming negativity persistently and at a rate that the human brain and nervous system were never designed for. Chronic and extended anxiety are problematic and can leave some individuals unable to function normally. This could be one reason why a growing number of people are experiencing news-induced depression.

Do You Have News-Induced Depression?

The symptoms of news-induced depression present like any other depressive episode. Only this time negative emotions are triggered by the seemingly never-ending melancholia around us. If you already have a low threshold for coping with negativity, take stock of your mental health with a self-check-in from three different perspectives: your thinking, your mood and your behaviour.

The tell-tale signs of depression include feeling sad, anxious or empty. For some people, it manifests as hopelessness, irritability and frustration. You may notice fatigue, disruption in sleep patterns and a loss of interest in activities you enjoyed before. Other symptoms include brain fog, with the inability to concentrate and remember things. Appetite changes are not unusual along with weight loss or gain, headaches, joint pain and digestive problems that do not ease with treatment. If such symptoms persist for two weeks or more, then consult your primary care physician or mental health professional.

Another very important issue about depression is that it can evoke thoughts and attempts at suicide. If you or someone you know is in this state, then consider it a crisis. Call 911 or go to the nearest emergency treatment centre. You can also contact the Toronto Distress Centre, at 416-408-4357, which is monitored by professionals 24 hours a day and 7 days a week.

Coping Strategies for News-Induced Depression

One of the most effective actions you can take in these circumstances is to turn off all news notifications on your mobile device and limit your usage of social media. This will give you control over what you expose yourself to. You can still stay on top of current affairs with a strict regimen of checking the news only once a day, and preferably not immediately before bedtime. Be mindful of “fake news” and fear-mongering by utilizing trusted news sources. And to balance this out, carve out unplugged time to focus your attention 100% on enjoying the outdoors, spending time with your family and friends, or taking up a hobby. Putting yourself consciously in environments that stimulate positivity can go a long way to counter a negative state of mind.

Also, healthy eating, exercising, good sleep hygiene and engaging in stress management techniques like mindfulness and meditation may sound cliche, but we cannot emphasize how beneficial they are for good mental health.

Working With A Therapist

Stigma about mental health therapy can, unfortunately, hold some individuals back from seeking the help they need. But the fact remains that psychotherapy is the most effective way to manage anxiety and depression symptoms. In some cases, physicians supplement it with medications, like Benzodiazepines which calm the brain and central nervous system, and/ or antidepressants like SSRI which directly impact brain hormones.

Psychotherapists undergo 6 – 10 years of post-secondary education specifically focusing on the complex dynamics of human relationships. This gives them much better insight into your emotional health. They can help you see and understand yourself in ways you cannot from your vantage. Once your therapist has assessed the situation, he or she will formulate a treatment plan tailored to meet your needs. These include evidence-based modalities like:

  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
  • Emotionally Focused Therapy
  • Attachment-based therapies
  • Trauma-informed therapies
  • Experiential and Humanistic therapies
  • Psychodynamic therapies
  • Somatic therapies
  • Systemic and Collaborative therapies

Research shows that the most important “active ingredient” in successful psychotherapy is the quality of the therapeutic relationship rather than therapy techniques. Take advantage of free initial consultations to assess your therapist and ensure he or she is the right fit for you.

Therapy Fees

Therapy is an investment in your health and happiness. However, therapy fees are another reason why people avoid seeking help for anxiety and depression. We understand this completely. Here’s how we charge for our time. We are happy to have a frank and open discussion with you about this to ensure we manage your care in the best way possible. Our services are covered by most extended benefit insurance plans, and often a few targeted therapy sessions may be all you require. We never keep you in therapy for longer than you need. To accommodate varying schedules we offer online and in-person therapy sessions during office hours, evenings and weekends.