What to know if you’re panicked

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By todaybreakingnews.org


Following two shootings that killed at least 16 people Wednesday, hundreds of law enforcement agents were scouring communities around Lewiston, Maine, on Thursday for a person of interest, Robert Card.

In homes around the country late Wednesday, many sat glued to the news. Some who see news like this spiral and find themselves picturing worst-case scenarios. And while that’s not an unusual response, experts say you should pay close attention if your fear becomes debilitating, as it may be a sign you need a break from doom scrolling.

“We’re scared of what we don’t know precisely because we don’t know how bad it can turn out, so we imagine the worst, and we hyperfixate on that danger until it is resolved, in theory, so we can be prepared for it and see it coming,” Regine Galanti, a clinical psychologist, previously told USA TODAY.

Our brains reach for the shortcuts in order to process what’s going on: black-and-white, perhaps worst-case scenarios. “There’s an evolutionary benefit to this – people who think the worst are more prepared,” Galanti adds. “The person who is constantly at the doctor for every mole will be more likely to detect skin cancer, and the person who keeps their eye on the escaped convict would, in theory, be more prepared.”

Generally, though, your obsession level with situations like these may reveal more about you than you’d like to know. If news headlines like the ones out of Maine cause you fear and you are nowhere near the area impacted, “it can mean that you are insecure in your personal life, that you are generally distrustful of others, and that you might have had a childhood where you felt unsafe or as if your parents where not good protectors of you,” psychologist Reneé Carr previously told USA TODAY.

Live updates: ‘Why do people do this?’ Maine shooting manhunt for person of interest Robert Card

Maybe it’s time for a news detox

Even though we can’t prepare for a gunman arriving, we think learning more will help us control the situation at hand.

“When we cannot control something, it makes us feel more vulnerable and at-risk,” Carr explained. “This is why people can become obsessed with watching a car crash, hearing about how someone died” and more.

Seeking control is not necessarily a bad thing, “but I encourage those people to be aware of their bodies while taking this information in,” Raquel Martin, licensed clinical psychologist, previously told USA TODAY. “Do you notice tension in your face, are your shoulders by your ears, are you clenching your fists or other body parts? These are good signs that it is time to scroll to something else or put the phone down in the first place.”

Also, how often are negative thoughts simmering and sizzling in your head? “Try a news detox and see if your mindset and all around well being improves,” Martin says. “I would also be remiss if I didn’t state that social media is very much designed to keep us engaged and scrolling, so it’s the beauty of the beast.”

Remember: You will never be able to truly cancel out your fear. But the absence of fear doesn’t equal enlightenment. “There will always be fear, but it’s important to remember that fear doesn’t need to halt you,” Martin says. “You can operate with a healthy level of fear.”

And until we know more in situations like this, that’s all we can do.

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