Understanding Social media PTSD

PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) is now used as such a “Fly-away” term. In other words, people say that they (or someone they know) is suffering from PTSD as quickly as people self-diagnosis Bipolar Disorder.  However, it is important to know that PTSD (or any other clinical term) can only be truly diagnosed by a trained clinician and there are specific criteria that must be met for an official diagnosis.  A diagnosis of PTSD means that the person may be experiencing distressing symptoms including (But not limited too) nightmares, flashbacks, upsetting memories, hypervigilance, isolation, irritability or aggression.

However with that said, PTSD is a very real disorder and it is not only a diagnosis reserved for those who have served in the military.  According to the 5th addition of the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders” (what clinicians use to determine a diagnosis), a trauma can be defined as a death, threatened death, actual or threatened serious injury, or actual or threatened sexual violence.

Professionally I believe that the word “trauma” needs to be expanded to include any extremely stressful event that causes the same emotional and or physical reaction as death, or sexual violence. I believe that some divorces are traumatic, some childhood experiences (i.e. being abandoned by a parent) can be traumatic, even catastrophic events that were not life threatening can be a trauma.

When it come specifically to social media, there is a term “Social-media-induced” PTSD that some clinicians support while others do not. Regardless of where someone falls in their opinion of this term, there are emotional consequences of taking in too much negative information via the news and social media. There has been research done that has found that ongoing exposure to negative news cycles trigger symptoms of depression or anxiety for different people.

So what can you do? How do you protect yourself and those that you love from the distressing symptoms that can come from the next “social-media” hashtag?

  1. Understand that your soul is finite

In other words, you must know how much you can take in! Your emotions can only handle so much! At some point you have to be able to say “enough is enough”. That does not mean that you bury your head in the sand and pretend that nothing is going on and it also doesn’t mean that you take on the world. It does mean however, that you understand what you can handle and when it’s time for you to disconnect.


  1. Filter what you do take in

More than likely, you do not need to know all of the details of every single tragedy that happens in our world.  Be careful about reading all of the details of every situation. Try your best to keep the information a high-level as possible (what happened, who did it happen too, what is being done about it).


  1. Learn the importance of self-care

What do you do to disconnect, disengage and decompress? That question is not rhetorical. I want you to answer that question in a very concrete manner. As Christians prayer is a powerful tool, but in addition to prayer what else do you do? Do you exercise? Journal? What about therapy? How do you make sure that you are actively releasing the toxicity of our everyday life?

Again, whether we call it PTSD or if we just call it our day to day stress, social-media and the constant news cycle can have an effect on our mood and our well-being. If you believe you are having challenges that are starting to impact your day to day life, please seek support! Find a healthcare professional (you can even start with your PCP) who can help direct you to someone who can help you learn the tools necessary to LIVE BETTER!