Why Binge-Watching Is Bad For You

    Why Binge-Watching Is Bad For You

    Even in pre-pandemic times, people were able to start streaming television series and movies through the Internet. Netflix, arguably the most popular streaming site available to us, has revolutionized the way we watch movies. This gave rise to the phenomenon of binge-watching, which is defined as watching episodes of a series or show consecutively. The convenience and affordability of streaming sites are their focal selling point – thousands of movies and series, literally at our fingertips. Despite its appeal, there is strong evidence supporting why binge-watching is bad for you.

    Why binge-watching is bad for you

    Addiction

    Watching successive episodes of a show is enjoyable, there’s no doubt about that. In this way, binge-watching acts like a drug. Gratifying activities prompt the brain to produce dopamine, a neurotransmitter that promotes pleasure and joy. It produces a “high” such as that produced by drugs and other addictive substances.

    Formation of bad habits

    From another viewpoint, binge-watching can quickly become a habit. When habits are formed, so do neural patterns in the brain. That’s why they’re so hard to break. It can even develop into something akin to an addiction. It can be hard to quit and make it difficult to maintain relationships and other commitments. You may also see that you need to increase how much time you spend watching to feel the same high; in the really bad cases, you find you might even lie about how much you binge.

    Isolation

    Another reason why binge-watching is bad for you is because it alienates you from connecting with others. When you use binge-watching as a way to wind down and decompress, you may inadvertently shut other people out.

    Sleep problems

    Watching large amounts of content can excite the brain, making it harder to sleep. This might bring to mind the empty promise you tell yourself: “Just one more episode!” Another factor is blue light, which is part of the visible light spectrum that impacts alertness, hormone production and sleep cycle. It is emitted by LED, fluorescent lighting and electronic devices. It inhibits the hormone melatonin that is responsible for feelings of sleepiness.

    Heart disease

    Research showed that watching several TV episodes in one sitting promotes a sedentary lifestyle, boosting the risk of heart disease by 50%.

    Psychological effects

    If you need more convincing as to why binge-watching is bad for you, consider its psychological outcomes.

    Apart from the risk of isolation and addiction, a study showed that TV screening time is linked to negative mental and physical health issues. Of its participants, 35% identified as binge-watchers. The study revealed that their average viewing time was positively correlated to self-reported TV addiction.

    A news report citing experts said that binge-watching can contribute to identification, which is when viewers identify with a character in a show, encouraging them to indulge in fantasy. As a result, the viewer imagines him or herself living in the world of the characters they watch. After a series ends, we mourn its loss, a phenomenon called situational depression.

    How can I curb its bad effects?

    There are ways to avoid the dangers of binge-watching.

    • Set limits: Set a timer or ask a friend or family member to remind you and help you stay accountable.
    • Watch with other people: This helps to prevent isolation; you can even discuss events in the show with your companion.
    • Take breaks: Stretch, walk around, drink some water or go to the bathroom.
    • Watch mindfully: If the show isn’t holding your attention, then maybe it’s not really worth watching. Consider other activities you could do.
    • Mind your sleep: Turn off the TV or shut down your laptop early to avoid being kept up by blue light.
    • Combine it with good habits: Watching can be done at the same time as healthy activities. Use the treadmill or lift weights while you watch.
    • Evaluate your TV habits: Consider the kinds of content you’re watching. Assess whether you watched a show to avoid facing a problem or responsibility.

    Key Takeaway

    Despite its addictive quality, it’s important to know why binge-watching is bad for you. There are a host of negative health effects that could happen to you, including sleep problems, addiction, and increased risk for heart disease. However, you don’t have to sacrifice your TV hobby. Be sure to set limits, watch mindfully, and assess your TV watching habits.

    Learn more about Addiction here.

    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Sources

    Binge-watch, https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/binge-watch. Accessed 8 Mar 2022

    Binge watching, https://www.nm.org/healthbeat/healthy-tips/emotional-health/binge-watching. Accessed 8 Mar 2022

    What happens to your brain when you binge-watch a TV series, https://www.nbcnews.com/better/health/what-happens-your-brain-when-you-binge-watch-tv-series-ncna816991. Accessed 8 Mar 2022

    Viewing Patterns and Addiction to Television among Adults Who Self-Identify as Binge-Watchers, https://apha.confex.com/apha/143am/webprogram/Paper335049.html. Accessed 8 Mar 2022

    The Dangers of Binge-Watching, https://www.ucf.edu/pegasus/the-dangers-of-binge-watching/#:~:text=Regularly%20spending%20four%20or%20more,UCF%20Assistant%20Professor%20Jeanette%20Garcia.. Accessed 8 Mar 2022

    7 Ways to Binge-Watch TV Without Harming Your Health, https://health.clevelandclinic.org/7-ways-to-binge-watch-tv-without-harming-your-health/. Accessed 8 Mar 2022

    How Blue Light Affects Sleep, https://www.sleepfoundation.org/bedroom-environment/blue-light. Accessed 8 Mar 2022

    Circadian Rhythms, https://www.nigms.nih.gov/education/fact-sheets/Pages/circadian-rhythms.aspx. Accessed 8 Mar 2022

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    Written by China Logarta Updated Aug 04
    Expertly reviewed by Dexter Macalintal, MD