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New Study Reveals the Media’s Role in Trauma

How much of a role does media exposure play in causing trauma? Dr. Dana Rose Garfin, a professor and trauma researcher at the University of California, Irvine, is working to answer that question. Her current research focuses on the psychological effects of COVID-19 as well as the risk of hurricanes, and if the media’s continual focus on fear-driven topics causes trauma.

The focus of this particular study was to see if high levels of media exposure could be harmful to your physical and mental health. Researchers included traumatic events like the Boston Marathon bombing, the Pulse nightclub shooting, and other public health crises. Web-based platforms were used to send out surveys so people could complete the survey on their computer or mobile device in the immediate aftermath of the event.

The Results

The study confirmed that the more event-related media the people consumed, the higher their psychological distress might be. These effects tended to persist over time and were linked with great functional impairment. The study also showed that early post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was linked with physical and mental health ailments months and even years after the event.

For example, for the Boston Marathon bombing, graphic images of corpses or blood were associated with higher PTSD responses and functional impairments months after the event. Exposure to a greater number of events online in real-time was also associated with greater negative responses to a future event.

What About COVID-19?

It’s important to stay informed during traumatic events like COVID-19, but Dr. Garfin encourages people to pick just one or two media sources and limited repeated exposure to disturbing images. You may find yourself staying glued to media coverage, but you don’t have to spend hours of your day looking at the same information on repeat.

Constant viewing can be even more tempting when it feels like the footage is never-ending and continues to scroll on our news feeds — but try to resist the urge for the sake of your health. You may not be in control of your reactions during hard times, but you are in control of what you expose yourself to.

It’s also important to be supportive and understanding of others who are going through a difficult time, especially if they tend to keep their thoughts and emotions private. Perhaps they would enjoy spending time with you or simply talking about something — anything — else. Reach out and try to help them stop watching the news and turn their attention elsewhere.

Media exposure to traumatic events can feel like it is consuming our lives, with nowhere to escape. The Guest House is here to help you limit your exposure to trauma and replace self-destructive behaviors with healthier ones. We can help you get through COVID-19 and other trying times by introducing you to a variety of therapeutic modalities, such as individualized and group therapy, mindfulness, somatic therapy, cinema therapy, art therapy, equine therapy, EMDR, DBT, CBT, and many others. We are here for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Turn off the news and call us now at (855) 483-7800.