Binge-watching web series turning into a new addiction, warn experts

The first case of addiction to online web series is recently been reported in India. Experts say that if people are not made aware that even web series can also be as dangerous as alcohol addiction, the country will see many more such cases in future. Here’s why you should think twice before you plan to devour a new season of your favourite web series in one sitting

Binge-watching your favourite shows can harm your sleep

The new phenomenon of ‘binge-watching’ has emerged now. It sucks in the viewer, and he/she is compelled to watch the whole series. This then leads to the formation of an ‘addiction pattern.’

People are shutting out themselves from reality world and are finding these web series as escapism. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has recently classified video gaming as an addiction. Experts say that it will not take a long time for the WHO to classify binge-watching as addictive disorder. While not officially recognised as a mental disorder in the DSM-5, internet addiction disorder affects many – young and old alike.

Unlike conventional television formats, streaming services, in which a show’s entire season can be viewed on any device at one go, raise viewers’ vulnerability to binge watching. People tend to stimulate the reward centre of the brain when they get to know what is happening next in their favourite show, say psychiatrists. This releases chemicals that trigger a mix of satiety and pleasure.

Such cases of addiction, like any other including gaming, pornography, chatting, social media, smart devices and others ride on factors driven by psychosocial and environmental conditions.

Dr Ninad Baste, Psychiatrist from Pune said, “For anything to become a disorder, it is first going to start to interfere with personal habits like sleep, basic activity schedule, etc., which will ultimately harm an individual. The series last just for a couple of days, but the people immediately get hooked on to it.”

Dr Baste added, “Immobility, over eating, sleep deprivation can be the outcome of such addictions. It can make you dependent upon it. It has potential to get into addiction disorder. Just like people who consume alcohol, who are not aware about its harmful effects. The viewer thinks that they are able to control themselves. People think what is the harm in it? But they need to know that they are at edge of it.”

Millions of people across the world are obsessed with binge watching. Experts say that it has now become the opium of masses. People are staying up late just to finish all the episodes of particular series and are found to be replacing sleep with binge-watching.

Dr Pankaj Borade, psychiatrist at Ruby Hall Clinic Pune said, “There is no proper education about using any type of media. When one is not able to allocate time for recreation, they tend to compromise their sleep when they start binge-watching.”

He added, “These web series are convenient to watch. Tradition TV’s had fixed time for a certain show; one had to wait for an entire day to watch the next episode. But things like Netflix have unlimited shows and can be easily accessed. These things really encourage its overuse.”

He concluded saying, “There is no one particular reason for binge-watching. Although, a lack of awareness and habit formation can be primary reasons for it. People have not been informed about their negative effects. These series do not come with a user manual. Also, there is no supervision on the viewer. Self-education appears to be the only solution for this problem, but even that is like hoping too much from these people. What is necessary is to create awareness first and to make people realise that binge-watching can turn into an addictive disorder.”