I believe that internet addiction can be just as detrimental to mental health as drug addiction. With the advent of Netflix, it’s nearly impossible to even come close to running out of full-length content to binge. By the time you finish one series, there are a number of new releases waiting to soak up your free time. Netflix is another escape from reality, just like many forms of drug abuse. According to The Hindu, a 26-year-old Indian man has recently looked to the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences in Bengaluru for help with his streaming struggles. The man, unemployed, would spend over 7 hours a day binge-watching shows on the popular streaming platform Netflix. He would use it oftentimes in an effort to ignore the internal turmoil he faced as those close to him continued urging him to find work. Even though this problem of Netflix in excess has existed for years now, it has only now began being recognized as a legitimate mental health concern.

Many of the problems that come from drug use/abuse center around how drugs can activate our brain’s reward system. Often, users will continue taking a drug even when it impairs their ability to tend to important responsibilities or participate in regular activities. Netflix is similar, if we imagine it as the drug in this metaphor, we have an unlimited supply. Do you know anyone who would rather binge Stranger Things than go to a social gathering with friends?

The DSM-V, or the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, is the most well-recognized text on every facet of known mental-illness, including addiction. Almost 20 years of careful research separates it from the last edition, 1994’s DSM-IV.  The DSM-V lists 11 criteria for use in diagnosis of substance abuse disorders, and many behaviors of Netflix-binge-watchers can be observed as closely related to those of substance-abusers.

  1. [Watching] in greater amounts or for more time than you are supposed to (i.e. binge-watching).
  2. Wanting to cut down or stop using [Netflix] but not being able.
  3. Spending a lot of time getting, using, or recovering from use (i.e. sleeping in late or losing sleep due to late-night binges).
  4. Cravings and urges to [watch “just one more episode”].
  5. Not being able to accomplish what’s needed at work, home, or school because of [Netflix] use.
  6. Continuing to [over-watch shows and movies], even when it causes problems in relationships.
  7. Passing on significant social, occupational, or recreational activities due to [Netflix overuse].
  8. [Watching shows] again and again, even when it puts you in physical danger (i.e. sleep deprivation, poor eating habits, neglecting to exercise or go outside).
  9. Continuing to [binge-watching shows], even when you know you have a physical or psychological problem that may have been onset or exacerbated by [symptoms of overindulgence].
  10. Requiring more in order to get the desired effect (use begins to be less rewarding over time, seeking other genres or more exciting content).
  11. Experiencing withdrawal symptoms (i.e. irritability), which can be relieved by [continuing to watch].

Clearly, the two addictions have a number of parallels. If you feel like Netflix is taking over your life or the life of someone you love, you may consider looking into getting some help from a certified life coach. They are trained to help you tackle life’s problems from a new angle.