Why do some people rally to help out with disasters like the Tsunami, Florida hurricanes, Katrina, and Rita, and some feel overwhelmed just hearing about “so many disasters” and try to numb themselves?

Part of the problem is that TV fosters compassion fatigue. The first objective of TV news is to gather as big an audience as possible so they can charge more for advertising. They need to get us to care about news items so we will stay tuned. Thus, a child can fall in a well half-way across the country or even the world, and TV news tries to make it an event that merits frequent bulletins. Being bombarded with bad news tends to leave people feeling depressed, vulnerable, and powerless.

When the World Trade Center crumbled on our TV screens, many viewers made a mental “movie” that their mind plays over and over, “vicariously traumatizing” them. Such people are also particularly vulnerable to PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) should they experience trauma personally.

There needs to be a balance between our curiosity and need-to-know vs. how upsetting the details are. Just as we need to know our limit with alcohol (and for some people that limit is zero), we need to know our limit for absorbing bad news, especially videos of bad news (as opposed to still pictures, print media, or radio).

Compassion fatigue is burnout by being overwhelmed by imagining others’ pain and possibly feeling we are not doing enough to help. Setting limits for what we see on TV can be very helpful in preventing us from being overwhelmed and burning out. By remaining resilient, we can keep perspective on what we can do to help and be OK with not being able to solve all of the world’s problems.

So what’s your limit for TV news?

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Michael Brickey, America’s preeminent Anti-Aging Psychologist, teaches people to think, feel, look and be more youthful. He is an inspiring keynote speaker and Oprah-featured author. His works include: Defy Aging, 52 baby steps to Grow Young, and Reverse Aging (anti-aging hypnosis CDs. Visit www.DrBrickey.com for a free report on anti-aging secrets and his free Defy Aging Newsletter with practical anti-aging tips. Hear him interview leading anti-aging experts and/or read the interview transcripts with the anti-aging experts.

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