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5 Signs That You May Be Experiencing News Fatigue

Updated: Aug 9, 2023


Being ‘in the know’ has been critical to our survival as a species. It helped our ancestors be aware of immediate threats in their environment like a predator or a hostile group. It was also vital to find out about opportunities — a new source of food, a new shelter, etc. It helped with social cooperation, giving them the chance to bond over gossip about a new threat or possibility.


It's understandable, then, that we are drawn to the news. However, the modern 24/7 news cycle is a relatively recent development. Additionally, our ancestors heard news that affected them directly, from people in their immediate circle, while we now have a constant stream of news even from the other side of our planet.


Today, "news fatigue" is a state of being overwhelmed, tired, or stressed due to the constant exposure to news, particularly when it is predominantly negative or when it appears inescapable.


While "news fatigue" is not a clinical diagnosis, and thus may not have a standardized set of symptoms, it is generally characterized by a number of psychological and behavioral signs:


1. Increased Stress and Anxiety, Mood Changes

-Feeling mentally drained or excessively tired after consuming news. You might find it hard to concentrate on other activities or feel like you are constantly thinking about the news.

-Experiencing a sense of unease, dread, or worry when thinking about the news or when anticipating consuming the news.

-Feeling sad, hopeless, or irritable more often than usual, especially after consuming news.


2. Avoidance of news

You may find yourself actively avoiding news sites, social media, or conversations about the news because they cause you stress or discomfort.


3. Disproportionate focus on the news

If news consumption starts to dominate your day-to-day activities, thoughts, or conversations, this could be a sign of news fatigue. You might constantly check news sites or social media for updates, or feel anxious if you haven't caught up on the latest headlines.


4. Physical symptoms, Insomnia

In some cases, prolonged stress and anxiety caused by consuming too much negative news can manifest as physical symptoms, like headaches, stomach issues, or aches and pains.

News-related stress and anxiety can interfere with your sleep, causing difficulties in falling asleep, staying asleep, or experiencing restful sleep.


5. Feelings of Desensitisation

Feeling numb or indifferent towards the news, even when it's particularly shocking or distressing. This could be your mind's way of protecting itself from emotional overload.


While the way the news system is structured isn't likely to change, we can take steps to protect ourselves and our mental health. Ways to prevent news fatigue based on research include:

  1. Limit Exposure: Designate specific times during the day to check news and stick to them. Avoid mindlessly scrolling through news feeds.

  2. Diversify Your Media Diet: Not all media content needs to be about the latest news. Mix in other forms of media like entertainment, educational content, and personal communication.

  3. Critical Consumption: Understand the source of the news and its credibility. This can help prevent the spread and influence of misinformation.

  4. Practice Mindfulness and Relaxation: Mindful techniques, such as meditation and deep-breathing exercises, can help manage the stress and anxiety associated with news consumption.

  5. Physical Activity: Regular physical exercise is not only good for physical health but can also help manage stress levels and improve mood.

  6. Seek Social Support: Share your feelings and concerns with others. It can be comforting to know that you are not alone in feeling overwhelmed by the news.

Remember, it's always okay to step away and take a break from news when needed. If you are experiencing news fatigue and that is affecting your quality of life, don't hesitate to reach out to a mental health professional for help.


About the Author


Diya John is a counselor and psychotherapist with a Masters in Psychology and a Diploma in Counselling from Australia. She founded Therapy Garden to make evidence-based counseling more accessible to expatriates, immigrants and the international community. She is based in Japan, but works with clients in different parts of the world via online therapy. Read more about her areas of specialisation and services here.


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References

  • Garfin, D. R., Silver, R. C., & Holman, E. A. (2020). The novel coronavirus (COVID-2019) outbreak: Amplification of public health consequences by media exposure. Health Psychology, 39(5), 355–357.

  • Chao, M., Xue, D., Liu, T., Yang, H., & Hall, B. J. (2020). Media use and acute psychological outcomes during COVID-19 outbreak in China. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 74, 102248.

  • Holman, E. A., Garfin, D. R., & Silver, R. C. (2014). Media's role in broadcasting acute stress following the Boston Marathon bombings. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111(1), 93-98.

  • Van der Meer, T.G.L.A., & Jin, Y. (2020). Seeking formula for misinformation treatment in public health crises: The effects of corrective information type and source. Health Communication, 35(5), 560-575.

  • Boczkowski, P. J., Mitchelstein, E., & Matassi, M. (2018). “News comes across when I’m in a moment of leisure”: Understanding the practices of incidental news consumption on social media. New Media & Society, 20(10), 3523-3539.

  • Lee, A. M., & Chyi, H. I. (2014). When newsworthy is not noteworthy enough: Examining the value of news from the audience's perspective. Journalism Studies, 15(6), 807-820.


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