Local psychologist thinks it’s ‘absolutely’ possible to be traumatized by the news | Characteristic

Catastrophic hurricanes, COVID-19, 9/11 terrorist attack and mass shootings.

It’s safe to say that various events in modern history have been horrifying to watch. But what effect does this have on us? Can news media be traumatic?

According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, in a report last updated in January 2020, children can develop stress and anxiety from constantly witnessing tragedies on television.

The academy also cites several studies, one of which reports that children and teens are prone to imitate events they see on screen. The study suggests that if more violence is shown on TV, then it becomes more likely that young people will imitate that violence. The same study also showed that constant exposure to such violence can lead to increased aggressive and violent behavior, desensitization (numbing), and fear.

Roger Williams University, based in Rhode Island, conducted a psychological study on the issue of news trauma in 2017. The study suggested that “indirect witnessing of an event” can create symptoms of PTSD . The researchers came to this conclusion after a quarter of study participants said they were significantly affected by the way the media covered dramatic events. The researchers concluded by stating that caution should be exercised when exposing children to violent events.

But what does a medical professional in Norfolk think?

Mark Stortvedt, executive director of Oasis Counseling in Norfolk city centre, said he thought it was “absolutely” possible to be traumatized by the news.

Stortvedt began his career as a music teacher in Omaha and has since accumulated 40 years of experience advising young people.

“I chose this age group because I felt it offered the greatest opportunity to impact students in their training,” Stortvedt continued, “Secondly, I thought youth ministry would be the next step, because I could work more deeply with them as a person than as a student.

When asked what brought him to Norfolk, Stortvedt said: ‘I realized families here weren’t necessarily connected, even though the income level was higher and they had access to more resources. That’s what got me thinking about counseling and wondering how I could be more effective in helping both families and the dysfunctions that may exist.

Traumatization was first studied with soldiers returning from war. Several psychologists have noticed that soldiers develop symptoms of PTSD, such as trouble sleeping, feel uneasy and anxious, and feel angry, surprised, or scared.

“The next place they saw significant symptoms of PTSD was with mental health professionals, as clients would come in and tell their therapists about their life experiences, which can be traumatic for mental health providers. After noticing with mental health professionals, they started seeing PTSD symptoms with the general public.

Dr Pam Ramsden is a leading trauma psychologist from England who has researched the topic of trauma in the news. According to Stortvedt, she recently discovered that PTSD symptoms have become more common among the public. Dr. Ramsden dug deeper and found that one in four people had symptoms of PTSD that were linked to exposure to social media, specifically traumatic situations that passers-by posted unedited and unscripted, without warning or framing of a horrible case. .

“I also thought it was interesting that the more outgoing a person was and the more they watched violent things or traumatic events, the more symptoms of PTSD they had. So you ask, ‘Well, why does a person extrovert have more symptoms?’ I think it’s because they’re more social, connect more strongly to people, and have more empathy,” Stortvedt said.

Stortvedt said he is a firm believer in the idea that if children are constantly anxious about the news, their brain development is negatively affected.

“Research has shown that if someone is in that place where they are constantly anxious, there is actually less volume in the prefrontal cortex and it becomes smaller. This means that their ability to reason about something and coming to a conclusion is weaker due to the anxiety-provoking material,” Stortvedt said. “The flight-or-fight response that comes from the amygdala is also heightened. Basically, they react more strongly than is really justified to situations. The integrity of their thoughts also decreases.

Over his 40 years, Stortvedt has personally worked with people who have developed mental problems from the news.

“I think it’s so common for things to bother people. I was seeing clients who were consuming a lot of social media and there were addictive traits in how much they were consuming. But also, part of their story was things that bothered them that came from something on social media. Stortvedt added, “I think the other correlation I saw was with young kids and violent video games. I noticed a desensitization on the part of the child. It could also be desensitization in the form of violence in the home, but regardless, it has the same effect.

So what are some actions people can take to reduce the effects the news can have?

Stortvedt recommends two things: first, maintain strong relationships with loved ones. “One of the biggest problems with trauma is that it can isolate people. When you talk to others about how you feel, the goal is to get feedback and realise:” Yeah. I reacted strongly to this. Second, get involved in the redemptive aspect of the news, instead of focusing on heartbreaking videos and photos.

“When someone is involved in the redemptive aspect, it helps to create hope and to give things a different meaning.”

Stortvedt concluded with a piece of advice for parents of teenagers who witness dark corners of the world, saying, “In adolescence, children become more social and begin to look outward and inward with family. They will begin to socially assess family values ​​and their place in the world, which can be frightening for parents as they feel this change.

“Parents should ‘bless this trip.’ They’re going to have to validate this journey for them and let them know that going through these things doesn’t make them a bad person, and at this point don’t try so much to fix them, but rather be that safe place.

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