In the world of psychology, bingeing definitely has a negative connotation. Binge eaters and binge drinkers are bingeing to escape emotional pain. They are usually trying to fill an emotional void by literally stuffing themselves with food or alcohol or drugs. Bingers use the compulsive activity of ingesting more and more and more to dissociate from their feelings. There’s something about the repetitive compulsion of bingeing that gives some people an escape from having to pay attention to any discomfort or obligation they may be facing. It is not healthy to be stuck in this kind of cycle. People who regularly binge eat or binge drink or go on drug binges are in need of therapeutic support in order to stop their bingeing behaviors and get their lives back on track.

So, is binge watching your favorite television series also an inherently unhealthy activity? I would argue this new cultural phenomenon of “binge watching” is a little more complicated. Yes, there are people who partake in binge watching for the same reasons someone with a substance use disorder or eating disorder partakes in bingeing. If you are binge watching because you tend to isolate, avoid human interaction, and avoid or dissociate from your feelings, then binge watching is probably not a healthy behavior for you. Especially if you are experiencing negative consequences because of your binge watching, or you want to stop binge watching but you can’t, you may need therapeutic intervention and clinical help to stop.

But, there is also a big subset of the population who are otherwise fairly emotionally healthy and still enjoy binge watching. The binge watching phenomenon has become popular in part because we are so overscheduled in general, and we don’t have time to watch tv shows traditionally. Our work week is so packed and our schedules are so over-burdened that many of us are falling into bed without watching any tv on weeknights. When the weekend rolls around, it can actually be a form of healthy self-care to block out the outside world, curl up in your favorite blanket, and watch some great content for several hours.

So, there’s no black and white answer to whether or not binge watching is healthy or not healthy. The questions to ask yourself are, “Am I binge watching for unhealthy psycho-emotional reasons? Or am I binge watching because it works with my schedule, and it is a time I can set aside to unwind, relax and recharge my batteries?” If you answered the latter, you’re fine. If you think you’re using binge watching as an unhealthy escape, it may be time to call a therapist.

Author's Bio: 

Holly Daniels, PhD, LMFT, is a licensed marriage and family therapist, meditation teacher and mental health advocate. She brings her many years of experience working in dual diagnosis treatment to her role as Clinical Systems Director at Sober College. After earning her degree in clinical psychology, Holly worked for many years as a primary therapist at Monte Nido and Associates, the Valley Community Clinic and The Canyon residential treatment center in Malibu, where she specialized in treating those with complex issues including co-occurring addictions, eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and associated mood and anxiety disorders.
As the Clinical Systems Director at Sober College, Holly contributes her complex clinical expertise to enhance and support clinical operations within Sober College treatment centers and utilizes her passion for relationship building and business development to collaborate with professionals and families in the recovery and mental health communities. Holly shares Sober College’s dedication to encouraging and promoting self-discovery and resiliency toward long-term, sustained recovery for every young adult who comes in for treatment. She feels fortunate to be able to continue her life’s work alongside the compassionate, expert, invigorating team at Sober College.
A mother to two teenagers, Holly relies on her personal daily meditation practice to bring balance to her own life, and she enjoys teaching meditation and mindfulness skills to others. “I believe,” explains Holly, “that healing involves building connections with other healthy people and creating fulfilling, meaningful life experiences outside of treatment. Sober College offers young adults opportunities to do just that.” Holly loves watching clients grow, heal, learn gratitude and develop passions as they practice interacting with the world in life-affirming ways. “I feel fortunate to be part of such an innovative and effective team, and honored to be even a small part of our clients’ journeys.”