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Year : 2021  |  Volume : 3  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 77-86

Psychological Trauma Through Mass Media: Implications for a Current “Pandemic-Infodemic” Situation (A Narrative Review)

1 Department of Psychology, Saint-Petersburg State University; V. M. Bekhterev National Medical Research Center for Psychiatry and Neurology, Saint-Petersburg, Russian Federation
2 Department of Social Work, Coburg University of Applied Sciences, Coburg, Germany

Correspondence Address:
Prof. Vsevolod Anatolievitch Rozanov
Department of Psychology, Saint-Petersburg State University, Makarov Embankment, 6, Saint-Petersburg; V. M. Bekhterev National Medical Research Center for Psychiatry and Neurology, Bekhterev Str., 3, Saint-Petersburg, Russian Federation

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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/wsp.wsp_90_20

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There is evidence from earlier studies that the probability to be traumatized by pictures of disasters is associated with a high level of exposure, the traumatic significance of the pictured event, prior exposure to similar real-life events, and personality variables. Preexisting symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, and anxiety are predictors of the higher impact of mass media (MM) and social media (SM) contributing to a vicious cycle. We aimed to discuss mechanisms through which MM and SM may cause massive indirect traumatization of populations and that may be relevant for the psychosocial conditions that emerged during COVID-19 pandemic news bombardment. The current pandemic is an example of a serious and deadly disease with extremely enhanced representation in the MM and SM and high rates of unverified, false, and sometimes apocalyptic information. Both mass as well as social medial tendencies to select their news according to their controversial and often negatively affective load contribute to this. This phenomenon is characterized as “infodemic” – a situation that may have profound consequences for mental health due to undermining feelings of personal safety, corroding social cohesion, and inducing conflicts and bitterness. Pandemic-infodemic situation has shown that complicated but inevitable turn to higher transparency including ethically motivated restrictions of anonymity and the contents of the web measures that, however, have to be sensitively balanced with the demands guaranteeing the freedom of opinion, the freedom of speech and the avoidance of censorship. In general, there is a need for complex solutions, difficult decisions, and intricate balances.

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