Could Violent News on Social Media Trigger PTSD?

photo courtesy of goldy/
photo courtesy of goldy/


According to new research at the University of Bradford in the U.K., exposure via social media to images and videos of violent news events can trigger PTSD-like symptoms.

Many people now turn to their social media feeds, such as on Facebook or Twitter, to keep up with current events. Almost immediately, users are able to upload videos and images of breaking events, including violent or traumatizing events.

“Social media has enabled violent stories and graphic images to be watched by the public in unedited, horrific detail,” said study leader Dr. Pam Ramsden. “Watching these events and feeling the anguish of those directly experiencing them may impact our daily lives.”

The study team asked 189 participants to log-on to social media and view images and videos of traumatic news events, ranging from suicide bombings, to school shootings, to the 9/11 attacks. The researchers then assessed participants for clinical indicators of PTSD; the participants also filled out a vicarious trauma questionnaire and a personality review.

Their findings showed that 22 percent of participants exposed to violent content via social media had high scores on clinical assessments of PTSD symptoms. The more often a participant viewed violent content, the higher his or her PTSD score, the team found.

“With increased access to social media and the internet via tablets and smartphones, we need to ensure that people are aware of the risks of viewing these images and that appropriate support is available for those who need it,” said Dr. Ramsden.

Do you or someone you love have PTSD? See if you qualify for Segal Institute’s clinical research study on PTSD today!


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