‘Social Media War’ can lead to psychological trauma
SALT LAKE CITY — In recent years, mental health professionals have learned a lot about the traumatic impacts of war on troops and civilians in the war zone.
Research shows the war in Ukraine can also have traumatic psychological impacts on people many miles away.
The war in Ukraine has been called the first “social media war.” It’s the first war generating violent, viral videos that people can watch in the palm of their hand. Too much of that can be trouble.
Dr. Steve Sugden is a psychiatrist at Huntsman Mental Health Institute. He’s also a colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves. So, he has perspective on what happens on the battlefield, and he is a medical expert on the psychological trauma caused by war.
In a video interview, Sugden said the ongoing stream of violent content on multiple platforms draws viewers in to the reality of battle.
“This is the first time that you’ve had individuals in a combat zone video recording on their phones and then uploading that on various social media links. So, people can actually be in the real combat zone,” he said.
For those with a healthy social network who can talk about their experience, it may only lead to a sleepless night.
“But it’s not going to affect us to the same degree as individuals who, for example, have a history of trauma, and then this becomes an aggravating event to that,” Sugden said.
Doom scrolling the war can traumatically impact those without a healthy social network, or people with close ties to the conflict. But when is it too much? What are the signs of trouble?
“The most common one is having difficulty sleeping,” he said. “They might feel that they’re more edgy. They might feel that they’re more irritable.”
Or, if it’s the only thing a person can think about.
“If we don’t have a healthy outlet to be able to discuss those emotions, then that’s where it starts progressing.”
Know when to look away and disconnect from social media for a healthy period of time. Those with a history of trauma and combat veterans may be more vulnerable.
“If you have a family member who is in the military, that individual may also be at greater risk,” the psychiatrist said.
If you take breaks and it’s still affecting sleep, or your relationships and making you edgy.
“If that still continues on and continues on, I think that would definitely be one of the reasons why one would need professional help,” Sugden said.
Those with a history of psychological trauma may experience an acceleration of thoughts of suicide or despair.
“That would also be a reason why somebody would want to get professional help immediately,” he said.
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