The Mental Health Impact of Media Overload

If you feel like the news is always getting worse, you’re not imagining it. Since the emergence of the 24-hour news cycle in the 90’s, our society has gotten increasingly addicted to media consumption. Intense, nonstop coverage of major events such as the COVID-19 pandemic, political elections, wars and invasions, criminal trials, and more have us all glued to the news. Media outlets have learned that more sensational coverage results in more (and more addicted) viewers, so they do their best to keep us hooked. However, this continuous influx of news can significantly impact mental health, leading to increased stress and anxiety.

The Vicious Cycle of Media Overload

The shift from traditional news consumption to the digital age over the last 30 years has drastically altered how we interact with information. The introduction of around-the-clock news channels and instant internet access made us perpetual recipients of news, regardless of its nature. During the pandemic, media consumption surged as people sought updates about the virus, leading to what many referred to as an 'infodemic'. Now, during what is shaping up to be another tumultuous election year, the constant barrage of news continues to be a source of stress and anxiety for many.

Numerous studies have identified a positive link between media exposure and higher anxiety levels. According to this study, staying glued to the news “can increase perceptions of threat and activate the "fight or flight response," which increases stress and anxiety.

The study reviewed past research around this issue, focusing on studies conducted after previous collective traumas. Below are some examples of the collected findings:

This intense media consumption can lead to a cycle where people already worried seek out more coverage, which in turn increases their distress. 

Recognizing When Media Consumption Is a Problem

It's important to recognize when media consumption is negatively impacting your mental health. Be on the lookout for:

Balancing Awareness and Mental Well-being

While it’s important to stay informed, especially in a rapidly changing world, balancing this need with mental well-being is crucial. Consider these strategies for managing media consumption:

As media continues to be an ever-present force in our lives, taking proactive steps to manage how it impacts you is essential for maintaining mental health. By setting boundaries around media consumption and being mindful of its effects, you can stay informed without becoming overwhelmed. 

Get Help for Stress & Anxiety at Medens Health

If you find that media overload is causing significant distress or affecting your daily functioning, it might be time to seek professional help. Medens Health offers professional counseling to help you learn to manage stress, reduce anxiety, and form healthy coping mechanisms. We offer virtual and in-person sessions with from a diverse staff of expert mental health providers, and we accept most insurance plans. 

Call or text (833) 624-5400, fill out our contact form, or get started here!


The information provided in this blog is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Reliance on any information this blog provides is solely at your own risk. Always seek the advice of your physician or a qualified mental health provider with any questions regarding your medical or mental health. If you don’t currently have a therapist, we can connect you with one who is qualified to give you safe, professional, and ethical advice regarding your mental health.

If you or someone you are responsible for is experiencing a medical emergency, is considering harming themselves or others, or is otherwise in imminent danger, you should call 9-1-1 and/or take them to the nearest emergency room.