Headline Stress Disorder: What is the news doing to us?

In 2017 PhD Steven Stosny wrote in The Washington Post about the new phenomena that he calls, ‘Headline Stress Disorder’. This came as a revision to his previously noted ‘Election Stress Disorder’ following then 2016 election. Stosny, and since then many others all around the world are have studied the ways in which the current news and media is impacting individuals negatively on a personal level. The findings so far can be generalized to say that news headlines and the ways in which media is constructed has a damaging effect on the ways in which we view ourselves and the world we live in. These studies touch on how anxiety and depression have been worsened as a result of headlines and stories that are not only significantly confrontational, but also aggressive and traumatic in nature (Cohut, 2020).

As social media continues to rise in popularity younger generations have much more insight and accessibility to the news than they once did before. For this reason it has been shown that Gen Z and Millennials are most impacted by the news showing around 60% while they want to be informed but report significant distress as a result of doing so. This is significant in comparisons to older generations who continue to demonstrate a level of distress in 10% less increments per generation. “The American Psychological Association found that 2/3 of people are stressed about the future of our country” (Spector, 2017). With those findings there have been more people coming into treatment seeking relief from this anxiety that approaches as they sit down each night to catch up on the world around them.

There is an overwhelming amount of information that comes our way with 24 hour news, live streams, and never ending conversations across the world about current events. It can feel impossible to escape whether it be the way we try to filter our media or by tailoring our conversations in a way to avoid confrontation. The reality though, is that we can take a break from the news and outsource of tragedies that are presenting themselves in several different ways.

  1. Limit use of social media and other media outlets on a daily basis
  2. Rather than avoid conversations over controversial topics work on developing boundaries and interpersonal effectiveness skills to better communicate concerns with others
  3. Challenge your own opinion and perspective, being closed-minded may further aggravate us as we continue to hear and see differing viewpoints across populations
  4. Seek out positive news stories on your own
  5. Take positive action on a controversial topic and get involved in some way

These are just a couple tips specifically identifying how to address the media aspect of Headline Stress Disorder. To find more coping skills specific to anxiety and stress look to other posts on our blog that include fun ways of de-stressing. Otherwise a quick google search or a conversation with your therapist will provide you appropriate coping skills for your own needs.

Written By

Courtney Wischhover, Graduate Intern


Cohut, M. (2020, January 16). Anxious about the news? Our top tips on how to cope. Medical News Today. Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/327516.php#1

Spector, N. (2017, December 16). ‘Headline stress disorder’: How to cope with the anxiety caused by the 24/7 news cycle. NBC. Retrieved from https://www.nbcnews.com/better/health/what-headline-            stress-disorder-do-you-have-it-ncna830141

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