Saturday, January 2, 2010

The News And Your Anxiety

Do you watch the news on TV, listen to it on the radio or habitually read the newspaper? If you have an Anxiety Disorder of any kind, be it Generalized Anxiety, Chronic Anxiety, Panic Disorder, Hypochondria, Agoraphobia or OCD, you probably should break the news habit. Why? Because watching what media outlets decide is newsworthy will cause your anxiety problem to worsen!

Think about what's on the front page of the paper, on your local or national news broadcasts - and even what's on NPR. Is it good news? Is it about happy events? Are there any personal interest stories in the first 20 minutes of the local news program? Not very often, right?

So what are they feeding you? Crime, death, war, bad economy, epidemics and in winter, deadly snow storms. That's right, even on the weather channels and in the brief weather reports on the local and national news, they don't bother telling you how wonderful the weather is in Key West, they only mention Key West when there's a hurricane there.

And notice how when they're going to tell you there's a slight chance of snow in your area they start off the news show by getting (and keeping) your attention with "Snow possible tonight!" Be honest, how many times when they've done that, has it actually snowed an appreciable amount?

News media have one purpose, and that's to make money for the station or network, or the paper. And their decisions as to what's newsworthy have nothing to do with what you want to see, only with what they want you to see. In other words, what sells.

What Sells Commercial Airtime and Why Should You Care?

Apparently the media have done their homework and found long ago that what brings in the most money is keeping you glued to the TV. And that what keeps Americans (and I'm sure anyone else anywhere in the world) glued to the TV is fear, plain and simple. High drama. Things that make you think: "Oh! How awful!"

Even though what they're showing you on the TV or the front page of the paper probably isn't happening to you, it's affecting you. Because you're not involved in what's happening, you can't do anything about it and you have no power to resolve the conflict you're absorbing. And this causes you tension and stress. And anxiety.

How About Sports?

Of course, something that brings in the big bucks for the TV networks is sports. Pretty fun stuff, right? I mean, it beats war and famine. But guess what? If you have a favorite team - YOUR team - watching them on TV can cause you worse problems than the news!

Don't believe me? I used to be a huge sports nut but found out years ago that watching my Seattle teams lose made my anxiety symptoms terrible - after I quit drinking. In fact, the last time I tried to watch the Seahawks play was at the end of their best season ever, in the Super Bowl. I should be happy and excited, right? But what I witnessed was the officials embarrassing the entire NFL by doing anything they could think of - no matter how obvious - to steal the game from the Hawks and hand it to the Steelers. Hey, ESPN polls showed that most of the country saw the same thing. Anyway back to the anxiety: I had to quit watching my team playing in the Super Bowl because I started having a panic attack!

How About Regular Programs and Movies?

Back when I used to watch some TV, the most popular shows were police and crime dramas, what my dad used to call "shoot-em-ups". Again, these create unresolved conflict that you internalize, leading to higher stress levels and anxiety. And really, if you want an example of unresolved conflict, the soap operas are BUILT on it! Day after day of no resolution.

The same can be said about a lot of dramatic movies, by the way. Have you ever watched a scary movie, the kind that keeps you on the edge of the couch waiting to find out if the hero is going to get killed? Bad news if you suffer from anxiety disorder. And even after the movie ends, you're still stressed out and nervous, right?

When you get right down to it, about the only thing on TV that's safe for anxiety sufferers to watch is comedy and the educational cable channels, like Discovery and Animal Planet. But now that I think about it, isn't most TV comedy an insult to your intelligence? :-)

Let's face it: Watching network television isn't good for your mental health and if you have anxiety disorder, your physical health, either. You'd be better off spending your time reading this blog.

To your health,


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