Streaming addiction is the compulsive and harmful consumption of streaming video and audio content. It can involve binge watching TV, movies, documentaries, YouTube, Netflix, TikTok, Twitch, as well as streaming podcasts, radio, music, or other streaming platforms. As a subset of internet and technology addiction, streaming and television addiction can lead to changes in the brain that over time compromise our ability to focus, prioritize, regulate our mood, and relate to others.
Those of us who have come to identify as streaming addicts experienced several common symptoms. We used streaming for longer than we intended, despite attempts to control or cut back our use. Even when we were aware of the consequences and wanted to stop, we were unable to do so. When we weren’t watching something, we experienced distraction, anxiety, and irritability. We were unable to enjoy and be present with our offline lives. We used streaming to alter our moods and escape our problems. Our addictive behaviors jeopardized our relationships, educational pursuits, and career opportunities. We felt shame and demoralization about our streaming behaviors.
When we first noticed these troubling experiences, we began to acknowledge that something wasn’t right. But many of us still questioned whether we really had an addiction. For those of us still wondering, the following questions may help us better identify whether there are signs of streaming addiction in our lives.
Streaming Addiction Questionnaire:
- Do I ever decide to just watch one video or show and then discover that hours have passed?
- Do I ever swear off or set limits around streaming, and then break my commitments?
- Do I have streaming binges that last all day or late into the night?
- Do I turn to streaming content whenever I have a free moment?
- Does my use of streaming lead me to neglect my personal hygiene, nutritional needs, or physical health?
- Do I feel isolated, emotionally absent, distracted, or anxious when I’m not watching or listening to something?
- Does my streaming contribute to conflict or avoidance in personal relationships?
- Have my streaming behaviors jeopardized my studies, finances, or career?
- Do I hide or lie about the amount of time or the number of hours I spend streaming or the kinds of digital content I consume?
- Do I feel guilt or shame around my streaming behaviors?
Nobody should have to suffer due to their technology use. If you’ve answered yes to several of the above questions, we encourage you to consider getting support.
What are the Effects of Streaming Addiction?
Streaming addiction is a subset of internet addiction disorder (IAD), which was first investigated by the psychologist Dr. Kimberly S. Young, who published the original diagnostic criteria for this mental health disorder in 1998. Today there is still an open discussion in the scientific community regarding how to define, qualify, and study the various forms of internet addiction disorder, and the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5-TR) has begun to acknowledge the severity of this class of addictions through its inclusion of internet gaming disorder. There is widespread consensus from both researchers and clinicians that the problematic and compulsive overuse of the internet, digital media, and smart devices has been rising over the past two decades, and that the prevalence of this behavioral addiction is associated with a variety of mental, emotional, physical, interpersonal, and professional problems.
Perhaps most significantly, the dopamine releases triggered by internet and technology addiction have been shown to cause structural changes in the brain very similar to the changes experienced in people with alcohol or drug addictions. These changes lead to impairments in our decision-making, reasoning, reward expectation, executive function, cognitive function, emotional processing, and our working memory. A variety of studies have shown that access to television and video games decreases the amount of pain medication needed by hospital patients.
Of course, the negative impacts of internet and technology addiction are not only reflected in the structure of our brains, but in our daily lives as well. Internet and technology addiction is strongly associated with impulse control disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), anxiety, increased substance use, and depression. In addition to these co-occurring disorders, it’s associated with a higher risk of obesity and cardiometabolic disease, lower sleep quality, increased fatigue, and symptoms of insomnia, all of which are correlated to a higher mortality rate. Perhaps most tragically of all, individuals with internet and technology addiction have much higher rates of suicidal ideation, planning, and attempts—roughly three times the average.
These findings are cause for serious concern. While some might minimize the impact of internet and technology addiction in comparison to chemical substances, the truth is that internet and technology addiction changes our brains in a manner similar to the effects produced by an addiction to alcohol, heroin, or other drugs.
Who is at Risk for Streaming Addiction?
Streaming addiction is a condition that can affect people of all ages, from children and adolescents to those later in life. Our meetings include young adults, college students, working professionals, parents, and retirees, with members of all ages, genders, and ethnicities from around the world. While the risk factors are varied, internet addiction does not discriminate based on age, educational level, socio-economic status, geography, race, or ethnicity. Its negative effects impact not only the addict themselves, but also their family members and friends. By damaging our potential, self-esteem, and quality of life, excessive streaming can impair our lives. Additionally, by contributing to depression and suicidal tendencies, our addiction can be life-threatening. Regardless of our background, if our streaming is causing us to experience distress or difficulties, there are actions we can take to improve our situation and find relief.
A Solution for Streaming Addiction
While internet and technology addiction has only begun to receive attention in recent years, the disease of addiction is not new. Millions of people have found sustainable, long-term freedom from their addictive behaviors through mutual aid support groups modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous. A recent systematic review conducted by Stanford public health researchers determined that participation in Alcoholics Anonymous was nearly always found to be more effective than other therapies in achieving continuous abstinence from alcoholism. The AA model has been successfully adapted to help people suffering from a variety of addictions, including narcotics, marijuana, nicotine, sex, pornography, and food, among others.
In continuation of this tradition, Internet and Technology Addicts Anonymous applies the proven model of AA to help those who are suffering from an addiction to streaming find long-term freedom from their self-destructive behaviors. We share our experience, strength, and hope with each other through group meetings and one-on-one relationships, and we work a recovery program based on the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. Our meetings are free and anonymous, and we welcome anyone who thinks they may benefit from support to visit one of our meetings.
Members Share Their Experiences Finding Recovery in ITAA
Since I finished high school, I’ve been using TV and videos to occupy every spare moment of my life. Fast forward 25 years to my last TV binge: my wife had been paying the bills for years and I was home alone doing a terrible job at looking for a job. I watched 150 episodes of a show I had already watched in the span of 1 week. That was the last drop: I came to ITAA defeated, found a co-sponsor, did 90 meetings in 90 days, and for the past 5 months I haven’t touched the remote. I feel like never before: I can focus on getting better at the job I finally found and I can be present with my friends and family. I can finally enjoy doing what I never found time to do before.
I followed tons of reality TV shows on a particular YouTube channel, and couldn’t go a day without watching the latest clips on all my favorite shows. I watched YouTube for hours during the day, to the point where my performance at my job was getting worse. After years of trying and failing to stop watching YouTube, joining the supportive community of ITAA and abstaining have been the only things that have worked for me. I enjoy my life a lot more now and am so grateful to be free of all those TV shows that had such a huge handle on my life for so many years.
My streaming had always been somewhat unhealthy, but the pandemic took it to another level. During lockdown, entire days started disappearing into the screen, and I became disconnected from my partner, my children, and my social life. ITAA has been a lifeline for me—not only because of the abstinence I’ve found, but also because of all of the emotional growth and resources it has provided me with.
At one point in my YouTube addiction, I was a subscriber to nearly 300 channels. Every day I binged on each morning’s fresh deluge of daily releases, trending series, video essays, stream highlights, and pure filler content before getting out of bed as the sun was already inching its way down toward the horizon. Today, looking back on my year of sobriety from YouTube, I can see that I have flourished in the community of ITAA, away from the shackles of a platform that kept me from living my life. It feels good to be alive now.
Our program has helped countless people find long-term freedom from internet and technology addiction. For more personal stories, we encourage you to read and listen to the recovery stories on our website.
How to Recover from Streaming Addiction
While there is no permanent or quick cure for streaming addiction, there are concrete actions we can take to recover from our compulsive behaviors and restore our emotional and mental wellbeing. We have found the following actions to be of significant help in finding long-term, sustainable freedom from our compulsive and problematic streaming.
- Attend daily meetings. In addition to a growing number of face-to-face meetings around the world, ITAA has daily online meetings where our global fellowship meets to share experience, strength and hope with each other. We are encouraged to try attending six meetings in a short time frame to help decide whether ITAA may be helpful to us.
- Make daily outreach calls. Our dependence on streaming drew us into isolation and self-reliance. As we begin to recover, we learn that we can trust others and be vulnerable. Calling other members outside of meetings helps us stay connected, supported, and sober, and it gives us an opportunity to share in greater detail than we might during a meeting.
- Abstain. With the help of other members in recovery, we identify and abstain from the specific addictive behaviors which are causing the greatest difficulties in our lives. We recognize that this is a process that unfolds over time, and we make use of the support available to us in ITAA to remain sober one day at a time.
- Learn more about the recovery process. Our website has many resources about the nature of our addiction and how we might best chart our recovery journey, navigate withdrawal symptoms, and respond to cravings. In addition, there’s a rich body of literature from other 12 Step programs that we can lean on to better inform our healing process and to learn more about the time-tested methods which have helped millions of other addicts recover.
- Find a sponsor and work the steps. We have benefitted from asking somebody we resonate with to sponsor us and working the Twelve Steps together with them, which is the vital and transformative basis of our long-term recovery from our addiction. A great way to connect with potential sponsors is to make outreach calls with other members who are sober and working the Steps.
- Make use of outside help. Many members supplement their recovery with a variety of resources beyond ITAA, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), psychotherapy, group therapy, psychiatry, inpatient or outpatient addiction treatment centers, other 12 Step fellowships, spiritual counsel, or other mental health wellness resources. While we do not endorse any one treatment option or intervention in particular, we encourage all members to avail themselves of any outside help that can support them in their recovery journey. A healthcare or mental health professional may be able to give advice tailored to your situation.
What Does Sobriety From Streaming Addiction Look Like?
Sobriety in ITAA is a process of discovery that looks different for each of us. As part of this process, we identify and abstain from the specific behaviors which trigger our addiction. We have also found it beneficial to establish a positive vision for our internet and technology use. For example, we may practice using technology purposefully, minimally, or only as necessary. Some of us have also found it helpful to cancel our streaming services, abstain from tv viewing, invest in spending time on physical activity and social interactions in real life, and reducing our overall screen time. We respect each member’s dignity to discover their own path to recovery, and we work with other experienced members to help define what sobriety means for each of us as individuals. As part of this process, we lean on meetings and phone calls to help maintain our sobriety commitments. Rather than streaming for distraction or to numb our emotions, we seek to use technology as a tool for meeting our goals, living in alignment with our values, and developing flourishing lives.
Types of Internet Addiction
While we all suffer from a common disease, it expresses itself in different ways for each of us. The following are some common compulsive internet and technology behaviors. It’s important to keep in mind that this list is neither comprehensive nor prescriptive—it is essential to identify our own personal compulsive or unnecessary internet and technology behaviors with the help of other members.
- Social media addiction is the addictive use of social media platforms, messaging apps, newsfeeds, discussion forums, chat rooms, and online communities. Addictive social media use can include Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, Snapchat, Discord, Reddit, Pinterest, and others.
- Phone addiction is the compulsive and self-destructive use of smartphone devices and apps. This may involve excessive phone use or compulsive notification checking, especially at inappropriate times such as late at night or while studying, working, or driving.
- Video game addiction refers to obsessive, unhealthy, or excessive use of video games, as well as any other digital or online games. This includes computer games, console games, phone games, and social media games.
- Porn addiction is the addictive consumption of digital erotic content and can also entail other unhealthy digital sexual behaviors. This can include pornographic videos, images, or writing, sexually arousing imagery, anonymous chat rooms, and dating apps.
- Information Addiction is an addictive and unhealthy relationship to researching and consuming information. This can include an addiction to the news, scrolling social media feeds, online shopping, online encyclopedias, and compulsive online research such as product or health research.
Internet and Technology Addicts Anonymous is a Twelve-Step fellowship based on the principles pioneered by Alcoholics Anonymous. Our organization is entirely volunteer-based and self-supporting. The only requirement to participate in ITAA is a desire to stop using internet and technology compulsively.
We have no opinions on outside issues, and we neither condemn nor condone any particular technology. We are not affiliated with any political agenda, religious movement, or outside interests. Our single purpose is to abstain from compulsive internet and technology use and to help others find freedom from this addiction. ITAA is a US 501(c)(3) federal tax-exempt nonprofit incorporated in the state of Colorado.
Page last updated on ספטמבר 3, 2023