The first cases of “binge-watch addiction” were recently reported in the UK. The patients in question were at risk of losing their jobs, relationships, and well-being over their inability to stop watching streaming series via services like Netflix and Amazon Prime. Netflix, which received 34 nominations at the Golden Globe awards, has revolutionized the way we consume TV. Instead of having to wait a week or more to see the next episode of a favorite TV series, viewers are capable of “binging” a series season by season one session at a time. More than ever, shows now emphasize the cliffhanger at the end of each episode, urging viewers to watch one more episode.
While “binge-watch addiction” has yet to be classified as a diagnosable condition, it does reflect a larger conversation that needs to be had about addiction – we all have the capacity of becoming addicts. Addiction is often a side effect of a larger trauma or struggle that we’re trying to avoid. If you’re interested in writing about streaming addiction, addiction in general, or related topics, addiction expert and sobriety coach Kevin Sullivan is available for interview and commentary. A serial entrepreneur, Kevin has helped kickstart successful multi-million dollar businesses in several different verticals while conversely overcoming his own personal struggles with addiction. Today, Kevin shares his experiences on addiction through talks and seminars which have inspired many to seek help and get clean. Kevin would be happy to talk about how streaming addictions relates to other forms of addiction, our society’s relationship with media, and what those who think they might be addicted to streaming should do.
Crossover Kenya had a chat with Turnaround Coach Kevin Sullivan:
1- How has addiction evolved over the past Decade?
Addiction treatment has moved into the public eye as we’ve become more accepting of mental health issues. Many public figures such as Amy Winehouse, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Whitney Houston, and Prince have passed away from substance abuse issues during this time period and others have opened up about their own struggles. Both of these phenomena have encouraged the public to open up themselves and seek help.
Over the past decade, we have seen the emergence of the opioid epidemic as well, where our healthcare industry has played a role in pushing addictive drugs which have led to one of the largest drug-related national emergencies in history. Our definition of addiction is also expanding, addiction is no longer just linked to ingestible substances, today we see behaviors like gambling, shopping, and even television streaming as addictive when done in excess.
2- Which addiction do you think has become the most harmful and why?
All addiction is harmful, the inability to control your actions or manage relationships is very serious. When we think about addiction we shouldn’t just think about the substance or addiction we’re addicted to, but rather the underlying cause of why we’re turning to such behavior. This is why a person is often afflicted with multiple types of addictions at once. Observing behavior is a better way to measure how bad someone’s addiction is – is a person failing to show up for work? Are they sleeping a healthy amount? Are they able to manage their emotional well-being?
3- Why do you think people are addicted to “binge-watching” even at the expense of losing their jobs?
In addiction people physically fall into a pattern they can’t break out of. Specifically, in binge-watching a person’s body language sometimes mirrors that of a depressed person, they often slouch over in the dark by themselves. They’ll isolate themselves with their addiction and deny any attempts others may make to help them. Our society has normalized this behavior so it can be very hard for a person to admit that they have a problem. A person that is addicted to streaming may say that they can watch a show for a few episodes and then spend the entire day binge-watching a series while avoiding all responsibilities. A person will lose their job binge-watching because they fail to see their behavior as a problem.
4- How can they be treated or stop this addiction?
Almost all treatment models suggest that an addict has to hit a rock bottom before they realize that they need to reach out for help. It might take the loss of a job or a divorce to get a person to see that they have a problem. A person needs to ask for help, and while there may not be programs specifically made to treat people addicted to binge-watching shows (yet), admitting you have a problem and reaching out for help is the first step.
5- Is this an indication of other underlying issues?
Absolutely. Everyone on Earth sometimes reaches a point where a situation seems too big for them, and sometimes people react by exhibiting destructive behaviors. These situations could be from pressures from work or school, family trouble, or internal conflicts like anxiety or depression. Addiction is often a habit of avoidance, and part of the treatment is finding that underlying problem.
6- Your message to the binge-watchers.
When speaking with an addict, it’s important to realize that they have so far isolated themselves away from the notion that they may have a problem that what you say will likely not reach them. Addicts will often deflect any problems they have by projecting their problems onto others are pointing to other aspects of their life where things aren’t going so poorly. This is all to say, that most “binge-watch” addicts probably don’t know that they are addicted.
If you’re worried about the amount of programming you consume, maybe consider scheduling an appropriate amount of streaming shows for yourself each week, and see if you often go past that limit. Maybe watch with a friend so you’ll be less tempted to stare at a screen all day. You can also set a sleep timer so your television shuts off after a certain time.
What I will say on this matter is that it’s going to get a whole lot bigger before becoming a mainstream addiction the way shopping and gambling have. It’s worth noting that streaming shows are developed to be addictive, these platforms are programmed to get you to stay logged on as long as possible. The important thing that people who are worried about “binge-watch addiction” should ask themselves is: is it hard for me to sit with my thoughts in silence, and if it is, why is this the case?
About Kevin Sullivan:
Kevin Sullivan is a sobriety coach, motivational speaker and serial entrepreneurial success who, proudly in recovery himself, is committed to helping others struggling with addiction. Known as the “turnaround guy,” for his ability to flourish in challenging markets, Kevin has helped kickstart successful multi-million dollar businesses in several different verticals including Job.com, Eniware, and Viggle. Kevin was also the driving force behind launching pizza franchises Domino’s and Papa John’s in the world’s pizza capital, NYC, transforming it into the most profitable market in the country for both companies.