Binge-watching TV is pretty much the best thing ever. You find a show you love, and you fall down the rabbit hole, enjoying it for hours upon hours, until you’ve finished the series and are ready to find your next obsession. Streaming platforms have offered us a safe haven away from the stresses of daily life — a place where we can easily cuddle up anywhere, anytime and indulge in some good, mindless fun.
But, like any good thing, binge-watching can go too far. “Any time we have the word ‘binge’ in a sentence, we should pause, whether we’re talking pizza, new shoes, wine, or TV,” cautions clinical psychologist and Innovation360 clinical director Dr. Kevin Gilliland. “Like all the things in that sentence, there is nothing wrong with watching TV… but all things in moderation!” Gilliland has identified five symptoms that your TV habit has spiraled just a little out of control, so you can be on the lookout for these signs in your own life. If they sound familiar, it may be time to start a self-imposed break from your current streaming addiction.
1. You’re not sleeping as much as you need to
Some of your best bingeing happens in the hours between when you get home from work and when you go to bed, and those sessions have been extending longer and longer into the evening. You get so caught up in your current show that you often find yourself pushing back your usual bedtime to allow for a few more eps, or even falling asleep on the couch and dragging yourself to bed well after midnight. And you wonder why you’re exhausted during the day! If you feel unusually tired, it’s worth examining the kinds of hours you’ve been keeping and evaluating whether or not your new TV obsession is responsible.
2. Your diet has changed
You’re so eager to start watching your show when you get home that you can’t bring yourself to cook. Instead, you place an order for take-out or settle for a dinner’s worth of snacks. This is totally fine occasionally — life is more fun when you can have snacks for dinner sometimes! — but if it’s becoming a habit, you may need to ask yourself if television bingeing is to blame. A drastic change to your routines is an indication that there may be a bit of an issue at hand.
3. You’re less active than usual.
“When you compare your activity level to a year ago, how has it changed?” Gilliland asks. “Has your time gone to your TV? Our bodies are meant to move.” No one’s suggesting that you run eight miles on a daily basis, but if you’re regularly forgoing former physical activity to make time to burn through another show on Netflix or Hulu, things may have gone too far. (If you’re looking for motivation to get to the gym this winter, only watching your fave when you’re on your cardio machine of choice can be a great reason to drag yourself out the door.)
4. You’re reluctant to make other plans
You’re making excuses to skip happy hour with your coworkers, pass on weekly brunch, leave friends’ birthday parties early… all because you can’t wait to get back to your couch and remote. Not a good sign! “When we start to choose TV over doing things with friends, it can end with us feeling isolated and disconnected,” Gilliland tells us. “That’s bad for humans.”
5. You’re avoiding people
Your BFF has already finished the series you’re bingeing, and you’re so fixated on avoiding spoilers that you find yourself chatting with them less than usual. You’re also constantly craving the quiet of your own apartment and your own TV. Everyone needs — and is entitled to — their alone time, but if you’re actively choosing to be alone more than would typically be comfortable for you, it might be time for you to go cold turkey on streaming until the balance is back to normal.