Is Binge-Watching A Mental Disorder?

Is Binge-Watching A Mental Disorder?

New studies are linking binge-watching to depression and dissociation.
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Binge-Watch (transitive verb) – to watch many or all episodes of (a TV series) in rapid succession. Every college student has experienced this “rapid succession" of TV watching; it's become a part of the norm, especially now that “Stranger Things 2" has come to Netflix. Like any other form of binging, a tiny voice in the back of our minds (usually) acknowledges that staying up until 4 A.M. marathoning “The Walking Dead" is probably not a very wise mental health choice. But just how far does the damage to mental health go? Is binge-watching simply a bad habit, or something much more severe?

Some are beginning to argue the latter. In a recent online article on nypost.com psychologist Ali Hill explains that “Often we sit down to Netflix to 'switch off', but the TV series that we get hooked on are written and filmed in a way to keep us on the edge of our seats. Neurochemically, what this does is increase our levels of adrenaline and cortisol (the steroidal hormone responsible for anti-stress responses), which if they stay in our system, can increase our stress levels."

Wow, Ali, way to burst that bubble for me. Still, she's not the only one. In an article on empirenews.net editor of the psychiatric diagnostic handbook (DSM-V) Dr. John Wallans says that binge-watching “…allows us to dissociate from our bodies into a state of mental ineptitude."

Yeah, I know, “mental ineptitude" seems pretty harsh. But wait, there's more:

“What it (it being binge-watching) can do is turn our brains off and make us sink into depression and apathy. Some people do not recover as quickly...and they are drawn into watching two or three (episodes) at a time. The habit slowly develops into a disorder, in which they (binge-watchers) are never free from psychological disintegration (harsh, right?), and use excessive television marathons as a distorted coping mechanism."

If you're anything like me, you're probably thinking to yourself: “Oh no. I'm in trouble." Two or three episodes at a time, Dr. Wallans? My friend and I once spent an entire day watching the complete first season of “Game of Thrones". And those episodes are like a million years long!

…I still don't regret that; that was awesome.

More seriously though, as a generation, I think millennials are especially prone to this new form of binging. And like binging alcohol or food, it's just too much, although we don't admit that or feel like it's too much - eventually, it's going to lead to negative consequences. I'm not saying we should never watch TV again, but maybe we should each take a hard look at why we binge-watch and how it affects us.

Cover Image Credit: flickr.com

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