By Alyssa Diaz
Say hello to the new favorite drug – binge-watching. We snuggle up, grab some munchies and refreshing beverages, and settle in to watch episode after episode; maybe even finish the season. You're planning on doing the same this weekend, right?
Your brain releases dopamine while you're participating in an enjoyable activity. It is a hormone that encourages enjoyment, excitement, and satisfaction. The activation of dopamine makes us feel euphoric and produces a high — like the type you experience after consuming addictive substances. Your mind grows increasingly hungry and, if you keep binging, your brain starts to generate dopamine.
Streaming time has transformed the way people live, offering amusement to millions of people at any time of day or night. It is popular since it eliminates boredom. Nevertheless, when we desire more, we remain less healthy.
“I believe some people genuinely like to watch shows and others use it to help them cope with their mental health, but I think that everyone should be responsible for limiting the amount of time spent because dopamine gives the brain that high and makes us feel good,” said Ann-Stacey Dumornay, a senior majoring in psychology.
Based on PR Newswire, 73 percent of people view two to six episodes of the same TV series in one sitting and over three quarters of TV viewers express appreciation for binge-watching TV.
“If I've been waiting for a show to come out for a long time, watching it in one sitting will definitely make me happy,” said communication and media studies junior Brendalis Puig. “Our generation for sure gets overly excited when a new season of a show comes out, some people watch it so quickly. I wonder if they watched the whole thing because there's just no way a person's attention span can be so long.”
But binge watching may have a negative impact on your commitments and ambitions, even relationships. It can be difficult to manage how much energy you waste watching one show.
According to NBC News, Dr. Renee Carr, a clinical psychologist, said due to hormones secreted in our brain, the brain communicates to our body to say it feels fantastic in front of the screen. Since you continue satisfying dopamine cravings, you create a pseudo-addiction to watching TV shows.
“I feel that people don’t pay attention to the amount of time spent doing things and how it affects their sleep. Some people would stay awake the whole night just to say that they finished watching a show,” said Puig.
It adversely affects people's health in unanticipated ways, claims neurologist and medical Houston Methodist Hospital Director of Mental Health Randall Wright. Extended periods of sitting increase the risk of obesity, heart disease, and other health problems.
According to Wright, experts believe binge-watching "tickles" the brain's pleasure centers in some viewers that same way gambling or other addictions do. These dependence-like qualities make it tough to stop looking because we seek high levels of satisfaction through storyline twists and cliffhanger endings.
According to research from PubMed Central, using a screen for an extended period of time increases your risk of experiencing mood disorders, anxiety, exhaustion, and insomnia. Moreover, binge-watching may lead to social isolation.
“There are so many people who get caught up in the shows they’re watching, including me, that they lose track of time. We should have reminders that pop up and let us know our screen time so maybe it can push us off the screen. We need to monitor it or else we can become too unproductive,” said communication and media studies senior Ciara Hoyle. “I can’t stop until I know the ending.”
When binging alone, it can be a beneficial approach for de-stressing if performed in moderation. But it can seem too much when you realize you've spent the entire day at home watching TV and haven't got Vitamin D.
“Whenever I watch anything, I have this need to have a snack or something with me the whole time, therefore, I would say it is definitely more harmful than good,” said Puig.
Certain meals like carbohydrates, salts, and fats cause surges in dopamine, too. According to Within Health, this dopamine outflow can improve a person's emotions while they are eating and fuel appetites for meals. Yet after eating, many individuals feel ashamed and limit their food intake, which makes them feel depressed again — yet another hard pattern to break.
“Healthy practices would be timing and limiting the amount of time spent watching the show. For example, someone can limit themselves to 2 hours per day or 5 hours per day as opposed to spending the whole day watching a show or several shows,” said Dumornay.