Are you too binge-watching? How to tell if your TV habits are a problem and what to do about it

Nottingham: The term “binge-watch” was shortlisted for the 2013 Oxford English Dictionary Word of the Year. While he didn’t win (“selfie” ultimately won the crown), it indicated the rise of what was becoming a popular activity of watching multiple episodes of a TV show in one sitting.

Today millions of us – including me – regularly consume our favorite shows in this way. The proliferation of streaming services over the past few years has made this very easy to do. Not surprisingly, during COVID lockdowns, research shows many of us spent more time binge-watching than usual.

But can binge-watching become problematic or addictive? And if you can’t tear yourself away, what can you do? Problematic binge-watching is not defined by the number of episodes watched (although most researchers agree that these are at least two consecutive episodes) or by a specific number of episodes. hours spent in front of the television or computer screen. As with other addictive behaviors, the most important thing is whether excessive alcohol consumption has a negative impact on other aspects of a person’s life.

Over many years of studying addiction, I have argued that all addictive behavior has six basic components. Regarding binge-watching, this would mean:

Frenzy is the most important thing in a person’s life (salience).

The person engages in binge-watching as a way to reliably change their mood: to feel better in the short term or to temporarily escape something negative in their life (mood modification).

The binge compromises key aspects of a person’s life such as relationships and education or work (conflict).

The number of hours a person spends binge eating each day has increased significantly over time (tolerance).

The person experiences psychological and / or physiological withdrawal symptoms if they are unable to observe the binge (withdrawal).

If the person manages to temporarily stop binge-watching, when they resume the activity, they directly resume the cycle in which they were previously (relapse).

In my opinion, anyone who fulfills these six elements would be genuinely addicted to the Frenzy. A person who only meets some of these may have binge eating issues, but would not be classified as dependent by my criteria.

Like many other behavioral addictions, such as sex addiction, work addiction, and exercise addiction, binge eating addiction is not officially recognized in any psychiatric textbook. We also do not have precise estimates of the prevalence of problematic binge eating. But research on this phenomenon is increasing.

A look at the evidence

In the latest study on this topic, a research team in Poland interviewed 645 young adults, all of whom said they watched at least two episodes of a show in one sitting. The researchers wanted to understand some of the factors underlying binge drinking.

The authors (who based their definition of problematic binge eating in part on my component model of addiction) used a questionnaire they developed in an earlier study to assess problematic binge eating in participants. The questions included: “How often do you neglect your homework in favor of watching series?” “How often do you feel sad or irritated when you can’t watch the TV series?” And “How often do you neglect your sleep to watch TV shows?” “

Participants were asked to give responses on a six-point scale ranging from one (never) to six (always). A score above a certain threshold was considered indicative of problematic binge-watching.

Using a range of other scales, the researchers found that impulse control difficulties, lack of premeditation (difficulty planning and assessing the consequences of a given behavior), watching out for escape and forgetting about problems, and to watch out for to avoid feeling alone were among the most significant predictors of problematic binge-watching.

Using the same data, the researchers reported in an earlier study that excessive monitoring of physical hyperactivity had a significant association with anxiety-depressive syndrome. The greater the symptoms of anxiety and depression, the more problematic a person’s binge drinking.

Other studies have reported similar results. A study of Taiwanese adults, for example, found that over-watching was associated with depression, anxiety about social interactions, and loneliness.

A US study found the behavior to be associated with depression and attachment anxiety. Most related studies – like the one from Portugal – have also shown that escape is a key motivation for problematic binge drinking.

In terms of personality traits, research has shown that excessive monitoring of hyperactivity appears to be associated with low consciousness (characterized by impulsivity, recklessness, and disorganization) and strong neurosis (characterized by anxiety and the tendency to negative emotions). We see these types of associations in addictive behaviors more generally.

Break the habit

If you want to reduce the number of episodes you watch in one sitting, my rule of thumb is to stop watching halfway through an episode. It’s really hard to stop watching at the end of an episode, as the show often ends in suspense.

I also suggest setting realistic daily limits. For me, it’s 2.5 hours if I have work the next day, or up to five hours if I don’t. And don’t start looking at reward for yourself until you’ve done everything you need to do in terms of work and social obligations.

Remember, the difference between healthy enthusiasm and addiction is that the former adds to your life, while the latter at night. If you think the binge is taking over your life, you should ask your GP for a referral to see a clinical psychologist. Most addictions are symptomatic of other underlying issues.

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Posted on: Sunday December 05, 2021 19:19 IST

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