Binge Watching

Binge Watching

Verified by World Mental Healthcare Association

Binge-watching can be a pleasurable way to unwind and relax, but it is essential to engage in moderation and remain conscious of its potential effects on health and well-being. Despite being a source of entertainment, excessive binge-watching can have adverse consequences on mental health and social life.

What is Binge Watching?

Binge-watching is the act of watching multiple episodes of a TV show or various movies in a single sitting or over a short period. It has become a popular form of entertainment in recent years due to the availability of streaming services and the ability to watch content on demand.

Binge-watching has become an advanced way 1 Liza, L. O., Rusandi, M. A., & Situmorang, D. D. B. (2023). Binge-watching as one of the new emerging behaviors in the COVID-19 era: Is it dangerous?. Journal of public health (Oxford, England), 45(1), e148–e149. https://doi.org/10.1093/pubmed/fdac071 of consuming TV shows and movies, enabling viewers to watch entire seasons in one sitting, whether it is streaming multiple seasons over a weekend, watching all the episodes of a new season in a single day, or spending hours on YouTube.

According to a recent survey, the majority of people tend to binge-watch alone, and more than 70% of them struggle to control how many episodes they watch in one sitting. This underscores the importance of being mindful of the potential negative effects of binge-watching.

Facts About Binge watching
Facts About Binge watching

Signs of Binge-Watching

Here are some signs that someone may be binge-watching:

1. Watching Multiple Episodes in a Row

Binge-watching typically involves watching several episodes 2 Rubenking, B., & Bracken, C. C. (2021). Binge watching and serial viewing: Comparing new media viewing habits in 2015 and 2020. Addictive behaviors reports, 14, 100356. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.abrep.2021.100356 of a show or multiple movies in a row without taking breaks.

2. Losing Track of Time

When binge-watching, it’s easy to lose track of time 3 Cordeiro, J. A., Castro, D., Nisi, V., & Nunes, N. J. (2020). BWDAT: A research tool for analyzing the consumption of VOD content at home. Addictive behaviors reports13, 100336. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.abrep.2020.100336 and realize several hours have passed.

3. Skipping Other Activities

People who are binge-watching may forego other activities, such as exercise or socializing, to continue watching their show. In extreme cases, binge-watching can lead to neglect of responsibilities 4 Raza, S. H., Yousaf, M., Sohail, F., Munawar, R., Ogadimma, E. C., & Siang, J. M. L. D. (2021). Investigating Binge-Watching Adverse Mental Health Outcomes During Covid-19 Pandemic: Moderating Role of Screen Time for Web Series Using Online Streaming. Psychology research and behavior management14, 1615–1629. https://doi.org/10.2147/PRBM.S328416 , such as work, school, or household chores.

4. Experiencing Physical Discomfort

Sitting for long periods can lead to physical discomforts, such as back or neck pain, eye strain 5 Sheppard, A. L., & Wolffsohn, J. S. (2018). Digital eye strain: prevalence, measurement and amelioration. BMJ open ophthalmology3(1), e000146. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjophth-2018-000146 , or headaches.

Binge Watching and Mental Health

Here are some ways in which binge-watching can impact mental health:

1. Loneliness and Isolation

Binge-watching can lead to social isolation and reduce opportunities for social interaction 6 Alimoradi, Z., Jafari, E., Potenza, M. N., Lin, C. Y., Wu, C. Y., & Pakpour, A. H. (2022). Binge-Watching and Mental Health Problems: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. International journal of environmental research and public health19(15), 9707. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph19159707 , which can increase feelings of loneliness.

Read More About Loneliness Here

2. Impulsivity

Individuals with the binge-watching disorder may display impulsive behavior 7 Khurana, A., Bleakley, A., Ellithorpe, M. E., Hennessy, M., Jamieson, P. E., & Weitz, I. (2019). Sensation Seeking and Impulsivity Can Increase Exposure to Risky Media and Moderate Its Effects on Adolescent Risk Behaviors. Prevention science : the official journal of the Society for Prevention Research20(5), 776–787. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11121-019-0984-z and have difficulty controlling their urge to watch TV shows or movies.

3. Cognitive Overload

Watching multiple episodes or movies in a row can lead to cognitive overload and mental exhaustion 8 Sun, J. J., & Chang, Y. J. (2021). Associations of Problematic Binge-Watching with Depression, Social Interaction Anxiety, and Loneliness. International journal of environmental research and public health18(3), 1168. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18031168 , which can impact overall mental health and well-being.

4. Comparison and Self-doubt

Binge-watching can expose viewers to unrealistic portrayals of life and relationships, leading to feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt. Comparing oneself to the idealized versions of characters on screen can create feelings of low self-esteem 9 McClure, A. C., Tanski, S. E., Kingsbury, J., Gerrard, M., & Sargent, J. D. (2010). Characteristics associated with low self-esteem among US adolescents. Academic pediatrics10(4), 238–44.e2. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.acap.2010.03.007 and depression.

5. Anxiety

A binge-watcher may feel anxious 10 Starosta, J., Izydorczyk, B., & Wontorczyk, A. (2021). Anxiety-Depressive Syndrome and Binge-Watching Among Young Adults. Frontiers in psychology12, 689944. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.689944 due to the intense and prolonged viewing experience, which can disrupt their natural sleep and wake cycles, causing feelings of restlessness, irritability, and worry.

Read More About Anxiety Here

Reasons Behind Binge-Watching

Here are some potential reasons why people engage in binge-watching:

  1. People may engage in binge-watching simply because they enjoy watching TV 11 ‌Liza, L. O., Rusandi, M. A., & Situmorang, D. D. B. (2023). Binge-watching as one of the new emerging behaviors in the COVID-19 era: Is it dangerous?. Journal of public health (Oxford, England), 45(1), e148–e149. https://doi.org/10.1093/pubmed/fdac071 shows or binge watching movies and find it a pleasurable way to pass the time.
  2. With the rise of streaming services, it’s easier than ever to access TV shows and movies 12 Russell, C. A., & Buhrau, D. (2015). The role of television viewing and direct experience in predicting adolescents’ beliefs about the health risks of fast-food consumption. Appetite, 92, 200–206. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2015.05.023 , which can make it more tempting to engage in binge-watching.
  3. With so many TV shows and movies available, individuals may feel pressure 13 Umesh, S., & Bose, S. (2019). Binge-Watching: A Matter of Concern?. Indian journal of psychological medicine41(2), 182–184. https://doi.org/10.4103/IJPSYM.IJPSYM_279_18 to watch everything to avoid feeling left out or behind on current cultural trends.
  4. Binge-watching can be a form of escapism 14 Gabbiadini, A., Baldissarri, C., Valtorta, R. R., Durante, F., & Mari, S. (2021). Loneliness, Escapism, and Identification With Media Characters: An Exploration of the Psychological Factors Underlying Binge-Watching Tendency. Frontiers in psychology12, 785970. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.785970 that allows individuals to take a break from the stresses and challenges of daily life.
  5. Binge-watching can be a way for people to relive their favorite shows 15 Steiner, E., & Xu, K. (2018). Binge-watching motivates change. Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, 26(1), 135485651775036. https://doi.org/10.1177/1354856517750365 or movies from the past. This sense of nostalgia can be comforting and enjoyable.

Impacts of Binge-watching on Daily Life

Binge-watching can have several impacts 16 Billaux, P., Billieux, J., Gärtner, L., Maurage, P., & Flayelle, M. (2022). Negative Affect and Problematic Binge-Watching: The Mediating Role of Unconstructive Ruminative Thinking Style. Psychologica Belgica62(1), 272–285. https://doi.org/10.5334/pb.1163 on daily life, including:

1. Reduced Productivity

Spending hours binge-watching TV shows or movies 17 Flayelle, M., & Lannoy, S. (2021). Binge behaviors: Assessment, determinants, and consequences. Addictive behaviors reports14, 100380. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.abrep.2021.100380 can reduce productivity and make it difficult to stay on top of tasks or responsibilities.

2. Lack of Physical Activity

Binge-watching can lead to a sedentary lifestyle 18 Aghababian, A. H., Sadler, J. R., Jansen, E., Thapaliya, G., Smith, K. R., & Carnell, S. (2021). Binge Watching during COVID-19: Associations with Stress and Body Weight. Nutrients13(10), 3418. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13103418 , which can increase the risk of health problems such as obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.

3. Sleep Disturbances

Binge-watching late at night can disrupt sleep 19 Jindal R. D. (2020). Is binge-watching competing with sleep? And winning?. Journal of clinical sleep medicine : JCSM : official publication of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine16(S1), 31–32. https://doi.org/10.5664/jcsm.8898 patterns and lead to sleep deprivation, which can impact mood, cognitive function, and overall health.

4. Addiction

Binge-watching can become addictive 20 Ort, A., Wirz, D. S., & Fahr, A. (2020). Is binge-watching addictive? Effects of motives for TV series use on the relationship between excessive media consumption and problematic viewing habits. Addictive behaviors reports13, 100325. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.abrep.2020.100325 , leading to a lack of control over TV-watching habits and potentially interfering with personal, social, professional, and other aspects of life.

Read More About Addiction Here

While there are potential negative impacts of binge-watching on daily life, there are also some potential positive impacts 21 McAnally, H. M., Young, T., & Hancox, R. J. (2019). Childhood and adolescent television viewing and internalising disorders in adulthood. Preventive medicine reports15, 100890. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pmedr.2019.100890 , including:

1. Stress Relief

Watching TV shows or movies can be a form of stress relief and can help individuals 22 Liza, L. O., Rusandi, M. A., & Situmorang, D. D. B. (2023). Binge-watching as one of the new emerging behaviors in the COVID-19 era: Is it dangerous?. Journal of public health (Oxford, England), 45(1), e148–e149. https://doi.org/10.1093/pubmed/fdac071   unwind after a long day or week.

Read More About Stress Here

2. Learning Opportunities

TV shows or movies can provide learning 23 Flayelle, M., Maurage, P., & Billieux, J. (2017). Toward a qualitative understanding of binge-watching behaviors: A focus group approach. Journal of behavioral addictions6(4), 457–471. https://doi.org/10.1556/2006.6.2017.060 opportunities, particularly for documentaries or programs that explore historical or cultural topics.

3. Shared Experiences

Watching TV shows or movies can be a shared experience that brings people together 24 Ngoc Nguyen, B. T., Huynh, S. V., Nguyen, T. N., Nguyen-Duong, B. T., Ngo-Thi, T. T., & Tran-Chi, V. L. (2022). Mediation effects of post-series depression on the relationship between life satisfaction and positive mental health of Vietnamese: A cross-sectional study in COVID-19 pandemic context. Frontiers in psychology, 13, 971711. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2022.971711   and can create opportunities for bonding and connection.

4. Increased Empathy

Watching TV shows or movies that depict diverse perspectives and experiences can increase empathy and understanding of others.

Read More About Empathy Here

Coping with Binge-Watching Habits

Uncontrolled binge-watching can be managed by the following tips, including:

  1. Decide how much time 25 Forte, G., Favieri, F., Tedeschi, D., & Casagrande, M. (2021). Binge-Watching: Development and Validation of the Binge-Watching Addiction Questionnaire. Behavioral sciences (Basel, Switzerland), 11(2), 27. https://doi.org/10.3390/bs11020027 you want to spend watching TV shows each day or week and stick to it.
  2. Instead of randomly watching TV shows or movies, create a schedule 26 Raza, S. H., Yousaf, M., Sohail, F., Munawar, R., Ogadimma, E. C., & Siang, J. M. L. D. (2021). Investigating Binge-Watching Adverse Mental Health Outcomes During Covid-19 Pandemic: Moderating Role of Screen Time for Web Series Using Online Streaming. Psychology research and behavior management14, 1615–1629. https://doi.org/10.2147/PRBM.S328416 of what you want to watch and when.
  3. Watching TV shows or movies when you are with others 27 Chang, Y. J., & Peng, C. Y. (2022). Exploring experiences of binge-watching and perceived addictiveness among binge-watchers: a qualitative study. BMC public health22(1), 2285. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-022-14789-z can remind you of your goals and also help you stay accountable.
  4. Instead of spending all your free time watching TV, find other activities 28 Boursier, V., Musetti, A., Gioia, F., Flayelle, M., Billieux, J., & Schimmenti, A. (2021). Is Watching TV Series an Adaptive Coping Strategy During the COVID-19 Pandemic? Insights From an Italian Community Sample. Frontiers in psychiatry12, 599859. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2021.599859 that you enjoy such as reading, exercising, or spending time outdoors.
  5. Many streaming services have an auto-play feature 29 Sung, N., & Kim, M. (2023). COVID-19 and changes in content usage behavior: The case of South Korea. Telecommunications policy, 47(1), 102461. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.telpol.2022.102461 that automatically starts the next episode, turning off this feature can help you control your watching habits.
  6. If you find it difficult to control your binge-watching habits, consider seeking support from a mental health professional 30 Srivastava, K., Chaudhury, S., Bhat, P. S., & Mujawar, S. (2018). Media and mental health. Industrial psychiatry journal27(1), 1–5. https://doi.org/10.4103/ipj.ipj_73_18 , who can help to identify the underlying signs you are binge watching and develop healthier coping strategies.

Takeaway

It’s crucial to recognize that people’s motivations for binge-watching can vary greatly, and not all binge-watching behaviors are inherently concerning. To avoid the psychological effects of binge watching, it’s crucial to maintain a sense of balance and moderation in daily life.

This means being mindful of the amount of time spent binge-watching and ensuring that it does not interfere with productivity, responsibilities, and overall well-being.

At A Glance

  1. Binge-watching refers to the act of watching multiple episodes of a television series or an entire season in a single sitting.
  2. Watching movies and TV shows has become a popular way to spend a weekend for many people.
  3. Signs of binge-watching may include sitting for long periods, lack of sleep, neglecting responsibilities, and losing track of time.
  4. The pros and cons of binge watching behavior have immersive story experiences and addiction-like tendencies respectively.
  5. Facts about binge watching reveal its increasing popularity and potentially negative effects on mental and physical health.
  6. The psychological effects of binge-watching may include fatigue, depression, and increased anxiety.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. How to stop binge watching?

To stop binge-watching, it is essential to set limits, create a schedule, engage in alternative activities, and seek support if necessary.

2. What is the psychology behind binge watching?

Binge-watching can be a form of escapism, satisfy one’s need for stimulation, and help to cope with negative emotions.

3. How does binge watching affect your brain?

Binge-watching can lead to the release of dopamine, which can create new neural pathways that prioritize binge-watching over other activities, leading to a decreased ability to focus on tasks. Additionally, binge-watching can disrupt sleep patterns, leading to fatigue and decreased cognitive function.

References:

  • 1
     Liza, L. O., Rusandi, M. A., & Situmorang, D. D. B. (2023). Binge-watching as one of the new emerging behaviors in the COVID-19 era: Is it dangerous?. Journal of public health (Oxford, England), 45(1), e148–e149. https://doi.org/10.1093/pubmed/fdac071
  • 2
     Rubenking, B., & Bracken, C. C. (2021). Binge watching and serial viewing: Comparing new media viewing habits in 2015 and 2020. Addictive behaviors reports, 14, 100356. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.abrep.2021.100356
  • 3
     Cordeiro, J. A., Castro, D., Nisi, V., & Nunes, N. J. (2020). BWDAT: A research tool for analyzing the consumption of VOD content at home. Addictive behaviors reports13, 100336. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.abrep.2020.100336
  • 4
     Raza, S. H., Yousaf, M., Sohail, F., Munawar, R., Ogadimma, E. C., & Siang, J. M. L. D. (2021). Investigating Binge-Watching Adverse Mental Health Outcomes During Covid-19 Pandemic: Moderating Role of Screen Time for Web Series Using Online Streaming. Psychology research and behavior management14, 1615–1629. https://doi.org/10.2147/PRBM.S328416
  • 5
     Sheppard, A. L., & Wolffsohn, J. S. (2018). Digital eye strain: prevalence, measurement and amelioration. BMJ open ophthalmology3(1), e000146. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjophth-2018-000146
  • 6
     Alimoradi, Z., Jafari, E., Potenza, M. N., Lin, C. Y., Wu, C. Y., & Pakpour, A. H. (2022). Binge-Watching and Mental Health Problems: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. International journal of environmental research and public health19(15), 9707. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph19159707
  • 7
     Khurana, A., Bleakley, A., Ellithorpe, M. E., Hennessy, M., Jamieson, P. E., & Weitz, I. (2019). Sensation Seeking and Impulsivity Can Increase Exposure to Risky Media and Moderate Its Effects on Adolescent Risk Behaviors. Prevention science : the official journal of the Society for Prevention Research20(5), 776–787. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11121-019-0984-z
  • 8
     Sun, J. J., & Chang, Y. J. (2021). Associations of Problematic Binge-Watching with Depression, Social Interaction Anxiety, and Loneliness. International journal of environmental research and public health18(3), 1168. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18031168
  • 9
     McClure, A. C., Tanski, S. E., Kingsbury, J., Gerrard, M., & Sargent, J. D. (2010). Characteristics associated with low self-esteem among US adolescents. Academic pediatrics10(4), 238–44.e2. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.acap.2010.03.007
  • 10
     Starosta, J., Izydorczyk, B., & Wontorczyk, A. (2021). Anxiety-Depressive Syndrome and Binge-Watching Among Young Adults. Frontiers in psychology12, 689944. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.689944
  • 11
    ‌Liza, L. O., Rusandi, M. A., & Situmorang, D. D. B. (2023). Binge-watching as one of the new emerging behaviors in the COVID-19 era: Is it dangerous?. Journal of public health (Oxford, England), 45(1), e148–e149. https://doi.org/10.1093/pubmed/fdac071
  • 12
    Russell, C. A., & Buhrau, D. (2015). The role of television viewing and direct experience in predicting adolescents’ beliefs about the health risks of fast-food consumption. Appetite, 92, 200–206. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2015.05.023
  • 13
    Umesh, S., & Bose, S. (2019). Binge-Watching: A Matter of Concern?. Indian journal of psychological medicine41(2), 182–184. https://doi.org/10.4103/IJPSYM.IJPSYM_279_18
  • 14
    Gabbiadini, A., Baldissarri, C., Valtorta, R. R., Durante, F., & Mari, S. (2021). Loneliness, Escapism, and Identification With Media Characters: An Exploration of the Psychological Factors Underlying Binge-Watching Tendency. Frontiers in psychology12, 785970. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.785970
  • 15
    Steiner, E., & Xu, K. (2018). Binge-watching motivates change. Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, 26(1), 135485651775036. https://doi.org/10.1177/1354856517750365
  • 16
     Billaux, P., Billieux, J., Gärtner, L., Maurage, P., & Flayelle, M. (2022). Negative Affect and Problematic Binge-Watching: The Mediating Role of Unconstructive Ruminative Thinking Style. Psychologica Belgica62(1), 272–285. https://doi.org/10.5334/pb.1163
  • 17
     Flayelle, M., & Lannoy, S. (2021). Binge behaviors: Assessment, determinants, and consequences. Addictive behaviors reports14, 100380. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.abrep.2021.100380
  • 18
     Aghababian, A. H., Sadler, J. R., Jansen, E., Thapaliya, G., Smith, K. R., & Carnell, S. (2021). Binge Watching during COVID-19: Associations with Stress and Body Weight. Nutrients13(10), 3418. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13103418
  • 19
     Jindal R. D. (2020). Is binge-watching competing with sleep? And winning?. Journal of clinical sleep medicine : JCSM : official publication of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine16(S1), 31–32. https://doi.org/10.5664/jcsm.8898
  • 20
     Ort, A., Wirz, D. S., & Fahr, A. (2020). Is binge-watching addictive? Effects of motives for TV series use on the relationship between excessive media consumption and problematic viewing habits. Addictive behaviors reports13, 100325. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.abrep.2020.100325
  • 21
     McAnally, H. M., Young, T., & Hancox, R. J. (2019). Childhood and adolescent television viewing and internalising disorders in adulthood. Preventive medicine reports15, 100890. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pmedr.2019.100890
  • 22
     Liza, L. O., Rusandi, M. A., & Situmorang, D. D. B. (2023). Binge-watching as one of the new emerging behaviors in the COVID-19 era: Is it dangerous?. Journal of public health (Oxford, England), 45(1), e148–e149. https://doi.org/10.1093/pubmed/fdac071
  • 23
     Flayelle, M., Maurage, P., & Billieux, J. (2017). Toward a qualitative understanding of binge-watching behaviors: A focus group approach. Journal of behavioral addictions6(4), 457–471. https://doi.org/10.1556/2006.6.2017.060
  • 24
     Ngoc Nguyen, B. T., Huynh, S. V., Nguyen, T. N., Nguyen-Duong, B. T., Ngo-Thi, T. T., & Tran-Chi, V. L. (2022). Mediation effects of post-series depression on the relationship between life satisfaction and positive mental health of Vietnamese: A cross-sectional study in COVID-19 pandemic context. Frontiers in psychology, 13, 971711. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2022.971711
  • 25
    Forte, G., Favieri, F., Tedeschi, D., & Casagrande, M. (2021). Binge-Watching: Development and Validation of the Binge-Watching Addiction Questionnaire. Behavioral sciences (Basel, Switzerland), 11(2), 27. https://doi.org/10.3390/bs11020027
  • 26
    Raza, S. H., Yousaf, M., Sohail, F., Munawar, R., Ogadimma, E. C., & Siang, J. M. L. D. (2021). Investigating Binge-Watching Adverse Mental Health Outcomes During Covid-19 Pandemic: Moderating Role of Screen Time for Web Series Using Online Streaming. Psychology research and behavior management14, 1615–1629. https://doi.org/10.2147/PRBM.S328416
  • 27
    Chang, Y. J., & Peng, C. Y. (2022). Exploring experiences of binge-watching and perceived addictiveness among binge-watchers: a qualitative study. BMC public health22(1), 2285. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-022-14789-z
  • 28
    Boursier, V., Musetti, A., Gioia, F., Flayelle, M., Billieux, J., & Schimmenti, A. (2021). Is Watching TV Series an Adaptive Coping Strategy During the COVID-19 Pandemic? Insights From an Italian Community Sample. Frontiers in psychiatry12, 599859. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2021.599859
  • 29
    Sung, N., & Kim, M. (2023). COVID-19 and changes in content usage behavior: The case of South Korea. Telecommunications policy, 47(1), 102461. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.telpol.2022.102461
  • 30
    Srivastava, K., Chaudhury, S., Bhat, P. S., & Mujawar, S. (2018). Media and mental health. Industrial psychiatry journal27(1), 1–5. https://doi.org/10.4103/ipj.ipj_73_18
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