Monday, February 08, 2016

Is Box-set Binging Bad For Your Health?

With more than 69 million unique users to Netflix in 2015 and a further 61% of people admitting to regularly binge watching 2-3 episodes in one sitting; is it time we looked at the health risks that come with watching too much TV?



It’s 2am. I’m sat  foetal, cocooned by pillows and blankets like a giant burrito of remorse. I’ve made it through six solid hours of my newly purchased Desperate Housewives box-set. It’s all in the name of research I swear.

Okay, well maybe this isn’t the hardest task I’d have to execute, but it certainly does take up a lot of my time. Not to mention how it manages to slowly chip away at my psyche every time someone decides to plant revenge on their unsuspecting neighbour.

Admittedly, I’ve made it quite easy on myself as Desperate Housewives isn’t what people would typically call ‘on-the-edge’ viewing. Still, I wanted to see what effect watching too much of one series would have on my mental stability.

Indeed, it did manage to make my blood pressure rise. Regardless of the type of programme it is, it’s the hook which holds us until it’s time to click the red ‘Next Episode’ button on Netflix.

It comes as no shock that the way we want to watch TV box-sets has changed. Gone are the days when you would have to wait a week for the next episode to be streamed on TV. Not to mention the rigorous scheduling and cancelling of plans simply because your night out happened to clash with the season finale of Pretty Little Liars . We now have the power to control what we watch and at what quantity. We do not delay gratification when skipping on to another episode, according to Psychologist Patricia Langlois who says, “we want to know what happens next, and that is because they give you that hook.”

It’s not surprising that through watching countless hours of a particular series, it can inevitably take some sort of precedent in your life. Through the way in which the characters emotions are depicted, we as humans take part in actively feeling how the characters are feeling. “I’ve known television shows that have ended like Mash or ER where I’ve actually felt sad, for days. I have felt a little bereft because I feel like I’ve lost my friends, those people that are on the set. It’s quite astounding. I named my son after a character in Mash, which to me, knowing who I am, is astounding. But that was how drawn in I was by the character”, Patricia tells me. When “you are right there with them, you get attached to the characters and I think that the more that happens the more you get addicted to the show.”

Have You Got OBD?

That’s Obsessive Box-set Disorder by the way. This self-inflicted addiction has seen itself plague box-set enthusiasts all across the world. In an extreme case, binging on the violent show, The Walking Dead lead a man to murder his own friend because he was convinced he was a zombie. Talk about crazy.

But it’s a dependency which many can’t control. “It will depend on whether the person’s contact with reality is enough, whether they can turn the TV off and that it is actually off in their minds or whether they can go into something like a feud like state”, says Patricia. Experts say that if someone is prone to depression or anxiety already, TV binging could be quite harmful to their mental state.

The Rise of ‘Netflix and Chill’

Since the successful launch of streaming sites like Netflix, there has been a surge in the way we gorge on TV and films. The use of the euphemism ‘Netflix and Chill’, essentially sexualises the activity of watching TV and invites two people to watch a movie and have casual sex. According to a government Health Protection Report, in 2014, there was a rapid spread of sexually transmitted infections in England, with approximately 440,000 diagnoses. Could the popularity of ‘Netflix and Chill’ be contributing to a rise in STIs?

“There is a social aspect, definitely. Although, if it takes the place of communication then that would not be good at all”, Patricia says. Psychology Student Ellie, 18, agrees and understands this pressure all too well. “It becomes easier to invite someone over to have sex, because you don’t have to directly imply it, you can just use the term ‘Netflix and Chill’ which makes it seem less dirty or wrong. I feel like if I do hang out with someone and watch a film or series with them, there’s a kind of pressure on you to do stuff because it’s now the norm.” As this trend continues to sweep across the social sphere, it is becoming more apparent that the way we choose to watch box-sets is impacting the way we interact with others sexually.

Are You a Sufferer of OBD?

If one or more of these symptoms apply to you, then you’re affected by OBD:
  • You would rather spend your evening hanging out with Serena Van Der Woodsen and Blair Waldorf than your real friends



  • Even though you’ve written yourself an extensive to-do list, you still feel it can wait until the end of another Pretty Little Liars episode


  • You’ve always got Netflix open in a private tab at work so you can catch an extra 20 minutes of Orange is the New Black


How to Beat the Obsession:
People with anxiety or depression should avoid watching distressing TV altogether. “I say let’s look at the fact you’re having nightmares at night. What are you doing before you are going to bed? Are you watching TV? What are you watching? And I want you to keep a log of what you’ve been watching each day and then the next morning I want you to rate your sleep. How long did it take you to get to sleep? Did you have nightmares in the middle of the night? You can then see whether TV is a contributing factor or whether it isn’t,” Patricia says.

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1 comment

  1. Very interesting post, but do I feel guilty for having bought box sets for friends at Christmas? Well no but I'll keep my eye on them ha ha !!JB

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