Anxiety and Television

This article has been fact-checked by our medical staff

Fact Checked

by Calm Clinic Editorial Team and Micah Abraham, BSc

Micah Abraham, BSc

Written by

Micah Abraham, BSc

Last updated October 10th, 2020

Anxiety and Television

People blame television unfairly for a lot of problems. They blame TV for violence, obesity, stupidity, and more. There is some evidence that television has negative qualities - indeed, TV can make people dumber depending on the programming they watch - but the degree of blame they are placing on television is unfair.

But what about TV and anxiety? Television and anxiety have been linked together, but how? Why? We explore the answers to these questions in this article.

Television Probably Doesn't Create a Disorder

It's highly, highly unlikely that TV can create an anxiety disorder. There are a few exceptions - some people do develop fears and phobias because of television - but in general, you are likely to already have anxiety in some way and television simply makes it worse.

So can television create more anxiety? Of course it can. There are several ways that television seems to be able to cause anxiety, including:

There may be other potential causes of anxiety that are not mentioned here. It's not quite clear. If the question is whether or not television can contribute to more anxiety, then the answer is yes, it can. Think of how much anxiety you experience from watching the news, or waiting for the next episode of your favorite TV show. Those aren't even necessarily stressful, and yet they do play a role in the development of anxiety.

But also blaming television for anxiety isn't fair either. Not everyone that watches TV is going to get anxiety and not every person with anxiety is going to get worse from watching TV. There may even be ways to reduce your anxiety with television, assuming you use it correctly.

Fighting Anxiety With TV?

Yes, despite its bad reputation, television can play a productive role in your anxiety as well. The key is smart decisions with regards to watching you when you watch it, and more. In other words:

Ideally, you need to choose funny or lighthearted programming that doesn't deal with stressful or tension-inducing topics. You should also consider using television as background stimulation. Rather than watch the TV, you can keep the TV on in the background while you're doing other things so that there is some visual and auditory stimulation but without the focus and attention that you would otherwise give it.

One of the problems with anxiety is that your mind essentially becomes your enemy. Mental distractions are the key to making sure that your mind has a chance to relax from the stresses of the day. Television can be that type of mental distraction, but only if you avoid issues that increase your anxiety. Try to choose shows that make you laugh or feel great about yourself, however, to avoid any of the potential negative consequences of television.

"But I Watch TV and I'm Fine"

Many people with anxiety point to the fact that when they're watching TV they feel fine, so they do not see how it might contribute to anxiety.

First, remember that some of the effects of television are secondary - like not getting exercise, completing tasks, or sleeping. You may feel great while you're watching TV, but there are other issues that play that will eventually affect you.

Second, when you're trying to combat anxiety, the truth is that all anxiety can be bad anxiety even if you feel good when you experience it. It's not true for everyone, but when your body is excited with stresses, it continues to struggle to control the anxiety that you do experience. Your mind and body need a break, and if the things you're doing create more anxiety - even if you can handle it - you're not getting that break.

Television Can Harm or Help

So in the end, television really goes both ways. It can be used to reduce your anxiety if you use it as a distraction and relaxation tool, but it can also increase your anxiety if you watch what most people watch and spend too much time directly in front of the TV when you should be exercising or engaging in other activities.

If you love your TV too much and can't give it up, you should at least start exercising and make sure that you're doing anything you can to control your anxiety today.

Questions? Comments?

Do you have a specific question that this article didn’t answered? Send us a message and we’ll answer it for you!

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Where can I go to learn more about Jacobson’s relaxation technique and other similar methods?

– Anonymous patient


You can ask your doctor for a referral to a psychologist or other mental health professional who uses relaxation techniques to help patients. Not all psychologists or other mental health professionals are knowledgeable about these techniques, though. Therapists often add their own “twist” to the technqiues. Training varies by the type of technique that they use. Some people also buy CDs and DVDs on progressive muscle relaxation and allow the audio to guide them through the process.

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