Potassium Iodide Panic at Reporting On Health

Well, sort of.

Here is an excerpt from a blog post I wrote at the USC Annenberg School’s Reporting On Health website. I will be blogging over there for a couple of months a couple of times a week.

The Great Potassium Iodide Panic of 2011 has peaked and begun to ebb. There were no child-flattening stampedes at Wal-Mart. No Jersey Shore-style girl fights in the aisles at Safeway. In fact, you might even be thinking no one got hurt this time around.

But what about next time? Did we learn anything about how our lightning-fast social media rumor mill works? It used to be, in the dinosaur days of news, that if Walter Cronkite didn’t mention it, it wasn’t relevant. Or, if someone tried to start a panic, all it took was a little reassuring Dan Rather sweater vest action and, poof!, the whole thing winked out faster than a blown cathode TV tube. Nothing left behind but an acrid smell and silence.

But now our media are all-pervasive. Once the potassium iodide panic began amid Japan’s earthquake-driven nuclear crisis, most of us were getting messages saying some version of “Don’t Panic” on Twitter, on Facebook, and on the Internet every time we tried to check our email. And that was the responsible media thing to do, right?

Here’s what may be wrong with that approach, neurologically speaking.

And you can read the rest over there…

Got any personal experiences you’d be willing to share about moments when thinking Don’t Do It seemed to become a command (if not a compulsion) to Do It? Does your personal experience make you feel like the more you try to tell yourself (or your patients!) to NOT do an unhealthy behavior, the worse the craving to indulge becomes? Or have you got any tips to share on how best to stop a panic once it has begun — given today’s immersive media experience, since ignoring it to death just doesn’t seem to be an option? Express yourself in the comments section.



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