Binge-watching has become a common phenomenon, thanks to fast internet, smart devices, and easy access to platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu. But what exactly is binge-watching?
To explain it in a simple language, when you watch a TV show continuously for hours, forgetting about all the other work that you have, it is called binge-watching.
According to some data from Netflix, a total of 61% of its users binge-watch their favorite TV shows from time to time. Hence, many people around the world binge-watch TV shows every now and then.
Impact of binge-watching on our brain
No doubt watching repeated episodes one after the other of your favorite show feels amazing. But what impact does it have on your brain function?
Dr. Renee Carr, a clinical psychologist, shares that the “feeling good” is because of the chemicals that are released in our brain. She explains that when we are engaged in an enjoyable activity like binge-watching, our brain releases dopamine, which is the body’s own pleasure chemical.
Therefore, when you continue binge-watching, the signals from your brain tell your body to continue doing it because it feels too good to stop. As a result, your brain continues producing dopamine and, in turn, your body feels like it is high on drugs.
Therefore, your addiction to a particular TV show is actually your body’s addiction to dopamine.
Dr. Carr even goes on to explain that it is the same process that individuals experience when high on drugs or any other addiction. The addiction to binge-watching has similar effects on the body as it does with an addiction to heroin.
The body is bound to get addicted to anything that helps it release dopamine, irrespective of whether it is drugs, sex, alcohol, or binge-watching.
Contrary to common belief, it would not be wrong to say that streaming sites such as Hulu and Netflix must come with their own brand of health warning, just like cigarettes.
Binge-watching is insanely addictive
To begin with, as much as binge-watching your favorite show is fun, it can be highly addictive. It has been found that an excessive watching of any show can also adversely affect the other aspects of our life.
Research shows that a loss of control is increasingly common among addicts. So, if you are addicted to binge-watching TV shows, it will lead you to miss out on all the essential commitments of your life, because you would rather prefer to have a date night with The Game of Thrones than your spouse.
In addition to that, people usually end up finishing entire seasons where they had only planned to watch three episodes in one go. These sinister habits are highly addictive and hence, impact our daily life too.
Binge-watching also affects our sleep
Have you been experiencing insomnia-like symptoms as well as poor quality of sleep ever since you started binge-watching TV shows late at night? Well, it is not a fluke.
Research shows that binge-watching impacts the way in which our body produces melatonin, which is the hormone that regulates wakefulness and sleep. Moreover, our bodies naturally produce the hormone of melatonin at night.
Therefore, the unnatural light emanating from laptops, mobile screens, and televisions throw our melatonin levels out of balance drastically. This is what makes us feel even more restless and fatigued with each passing day.
According to Abigael San, a clinical psychologist, this binge-watching night after night and day after day can very easily turn into a vicious circle. She says that the entire concept of binge-watching essentially boils down to one explanation - the process makes us feel good.
She says that since it makes us feel repeatedly and consistently good, we keep chasing it to continue to feel good. And this is precisely where the danger lies.
This locks us in a vicious circle where we are always available for this one thing that makes us feel good. We start relying on this instant gratification to shield us from all the unpleasantness in our real life.
In other words, it becomes an escape of sorts where people continue binge-watching to avoid their emotions, relationships, or real life. In the long run, it can simply lead you not to address the things that matter, such as your own issues and anxieties.
Also, when you finish a certain TV show after binge-watching it, it can instantly lead you into depression because of being deprived of the only thing that was making you feel good up until now. In the same vein, it will also stop you from addressing some of the more important, underlying issues.
For example, according to a survey, 34% of the participants mentioned experiencing a deep sense of emptiness after they finished a show. Also, 20% of them even cited depression and low mood as a consequence of finishing it.
Brain over binge
Although compulsive television viewing is nowhere close to binge-drinking or drug addiction, its impact on our physical and mental health is nevertheless immediate and harmful. However, binge-watching comes with a host of hidden dangers such as obesity, eye strain, sleepless nights or insomnia, depression as well as psycho-social diseases.
A good strategy to break this pattern of binge-watching is to simply watch 15-20 minutes of the upcoming episode and leave it at that. This way, you won’t be stimulated because of the cliffhanger you missed and can keep your cravings in check.
And if the sitcom you are watching does not have a cliffhanger, you have only to look at the statistics to understand the dire effects it can have on your physical and mental health in the long run.