With a pandemic, war in Ukraine and school shootings, the doom and gloom across media platforms the last few years have left many with a news addiction.

How does it start?

“When the broadcaster says ‘stay tuned for more details,’ eventually, there is more anxiety in not checking or knowing than by being able to just turn off the TV or device. And certainly pop-up notifications on our phones only further our desire to check more,” says Carla Schnitzlein, DO, medical director of psychiatry at Natchaug Hospital.

A new study suggests about 16% of the population are compulsive news watchers who can’t stop consuming or thinking about the news. The need for news and information can take over their lives, potentially leading to both physical and mental health problems.

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Why should I be concerned?

“People’s time is being consumed by checking the next headline, and when they do, many times they only feel more anxious,” Dr. Schnitzlein says.

Chronic states of anxiety can lead to:

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“It’s normal to want to know what’s going on in the world around us. That said, there is 24/7 access to news on the TV and our phones. Much of the news that is reported, especially on a 24/7 news network, is geared to have some sort of sensational or emotional draw,” she adds.

While there are clear benefits to staying informed, if you have trouble peeling yourself away from the newsfeed, the key may be controlling consumption.

Turning off a news addiction

Worried that you might have a news addiction? Dr. Schnitzlein has these five tips for anyone looking to cut back:

  • Blocking off chunks of time to read or watch news. Turn the device off outside of those times.
  • Turning off push notifications.
  • Avoiding “social” news inviting you to participate through comment/message boards.
  • Viewing news only when you feel calm.
  • Finding venues that provide facts.