TV News and Depression: How I Learned To Turn It Off

I find myself increasingly outraged at what I see on the TV news channels lately. I’m not talking about the news itself, but the way it’s presented with loud graphics, dramatic music and louder newscasters.

To watch CNN, Fox News, MSNBC or any number of local news affiliates is to be rattled. And, in fact, before I learned to turn it off, I couldn’t take my eyes away. It took an already depressed, out-of-control person and made him three times worse.

Mood music:

I should probably laugh it off and move on. But the fact of the matter is that this stuff used to leave me a crippled mess.

When you have an out-of-control case of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), you latch onto all the things you can’t control and worry about them nonstop. Nothing feeds that devil like the cable news networks. I’ve written before about the anxiety and fear I used to have over current events. I would think about all the things going on in the world over and over again, until it left me physically ill. I personally wanted to set everything right and control the shape of events, which of course is delusional, dangerous thinking.

Right after 9-11 I realized the obsession had taken a much darker, deeper tone. This time, I had the Internet as well as the TV networks to fill me with horror. Everyone was filled with horror on 9-11, obviously, but while others were able to go about their business in a depressed haze, I froze. Two weeks after the event, I refused to get on a plane to go to a wedding in Arizona. Everyone was afraid to fly at that point, but I let my fear own me. It’s one of my big regrets.

Part of the problem was my inability to take my eyes off the news. To do so for a five-hour plane ride was unthinkable. To not know what was going on for five hours? Holy shit. If I don’t know about it, I can’t control it!

I really used to think like that.

The start of the War on Terror brought out the rock-bottom worst in TV news. Every possible danger, no matter how unsupported by facts, was flashed on the screen with the urgency of imminent doom. I remember how Wolf Blitzer of CNN used the word “alarming” just about every night as the analysts discussed the hundred different ways the terrorists could really kick us in the balls next time:

— Releasing smallpox back into the air

–Detonating a nuclear device in front of the White House

–Diving planes into nuclear power plants.

In a time when the right answer would have been to hold our heads up and show the bad guys we don’t hide in the face of danger, this stuff brought out the worst in us, especially an already emotionally sick guy like me.

It didn’t have to be matters of war and peace, either.

In the weeks leading up to the 2004 presidential election, all the TV news commentators could talk about was the last election and how there was growing fear that a repeat of the electoral deadlock of 2000 would repeat itself.

Analysts talked about all the glitches that could happen as if they were watching a knife go into their chest. Already consumed by fear and anxiety, I freaked over this, too.

A year later, right after Hurricane Katrina hit, TV news stations felt the need to go over every conceivable disaster that might wipe us out next: Bird flu, nuclear plant meltdowns, earthquakes and other unpredictable events. It made a mess of me.

I can’t pinpoint the exact period where I decided this stuff no longer had meaning to me, but I think it was around the time I started taking the right medication for OCD in early 2007.

All of the sudden, I didn’t care as much about watching the news. I simply lost interest. And I’ve been a lot happier as a result.

The timing may be a coincidence. My Faith also started to deepen around that time, and the more I learned to trust God and let go of the things I couldn’t control, the more meaningless CNN’s loudness became.

Today, I’m as addicted to the Internet as I used to be to the TV. But I don’t really watch the news online. I’ll quickly glance over the headlines and maybe stick around if a political analysis intrigues me enough. But I’m much more likely to get sucked into all the music videos available on YouTube or who is saying what on Facebook and Twitter. That too is something I know I need to be careful of, but it’s fair to say that that stuff doesn’t send me into shock and panic like CNN and Fox used to.

Somewhere along the way, as I watched news reports of bomb explosions and natural calamities half a world away, I looked up and realized everything outside my living room window was tranquil and uneventful.

I’ve operated on that mindset ever since.

Call me apathetic or ignorant. Tell me I’m in denial.

All I can tell you is that things in the world look much different to me now than they did just a few short years ago.


4 thoughts on “TV News and Depression: How I Learned To Turn It Off

  1. Pingback: Debt Ceiling Debate Would’ve Killed Me A Few Years Ago | THE OCD DIARIES

  2. I became a news junkie on 9/11. I had just gotten home from working 3rd shift and was half asleep when it happened. I was in such a state of shock, I stayed awake all day watching as events unfolded. I called in sick that night.

    Since then I was getting my fix all the time. The war happened, and being from a military family, I was enthralled. But your right, it has changed. I cannot stand to watch the news anymore. Like you, I am online all the time now and choose what news I want to read about. I am quite fond of anything in the science and space sections.

    Now with the politics dominating every news show, it just makes me ill. Democrat or Republican, it doesn’t matter who is talking, is lying. End of story. It makes me sick to hear these talking heads promise, degrade and argue over what should be a straight forward process. It is all a show and I am walking out of the theater. I would really like my money back as well.

  3. I feel exactly the same, and take the back lash of dirty looks from friends when I stop them and say, Im sorry, but I dont watch tv so I have no idea what your talkin about. I do feel left out and a bit stupid, but hey Im happy and not worried about how thats goingto affect me.

    You said: When you have an out of control case of OCD, you latch onto things you cant control…That sent chills down my back because that was my marriage and i was the object that he obsessed over and couldnt control. Id love to hear how other OCD marriages work?

  4. Nice post and mood music selection (shades of Gil Scott Heron).

    I still enjoy the news, but lately I’ve been switching channels when they start covering the wars, terrorism or domestic crime and, during my unemployment, it has helped sustain my mood immeasurably.

    Similarly, I’m working on managing my Web and social media interaction, attempting to segregate it to a certain hour a day or two. I find that if I don’t start writing, for example, before I check e-mail, the day is lost.

    Such segmentation isn’t possible for everyone, perhaps, but I’m finding that the less “connected” I am, the more truly connected I am to the things that make life worthwhile.

    Of course, I could just be in denial.

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