Television addiction is the compulsive and harmful watching of tv shows, movies and online videos. It can involve binge-watching tv shows on streaming platforms such as Netflix, Hulu or YouTube. As a subset of internet and technology addiction, TV addiction can lead to changes in the brain that over time compromise our ability to focus, prioritize, regulate our mood, and relate to others. Excessive TV watching and screen time can contribute to lower levels of physical activity, impair our social lives, and damage our self-esteem.
Those of us who have come to identify as TV addicts experienced several common symptoms. We watched TV for longer than we intended, despite attempts to control or cut back. Even when we were aware of the consequences and wanted to stop, we were unable to do so. When we weren’t able to watch our favorite shows or movies, we experienced distraction, anxiety, and irritability. We were unable to enjoy and be present with our offline lives. We might watch TV to alter our moods, numb our emotions, and escape our problems. Our addictive behaviors jeopardized our relationships with loved ones, educational pursuits, and career opportunities. We felt shame and demoralization about how many hours of tv we watched.
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 TV addiction in our own experience.
TV Addiction Questionnaire:
- Do I ever sit down to watch a small amount of TV and then discover that hours have passed?
- Do I ever swear off or set limits around TV viewing, and then break my commitments?
- Do I have TV binges that last all day or late into the night?
- Do I turn to TV whenever I have a free moment?
- Does my use of TV 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 TV?
- Does my TV watching contribute to conflict or avoidance in my relationships?
- Have my TV behaviors jeopardized my studies, finances, or career?
- Do I hide or lie about the amount of time I spend TV watching or the kinds of television shows I consume?
- Do I feel guilt or shame around my use of TV?
Nobody should have to suffer due to their TV watching. If you’ve answered yes to several of the above questions, we encourage you to consider getting support.
What are the effects of TV Addiction?
TV 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 effects 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 TV Addiction?
TV 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. While the risk factors are varied, tv and 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 use of TV can impair our lives. Additionally, by contributing to depression and suicidal tendencies, our addiction can be life-threatening. Regardless of our background, if our use of TV or streaming services is causing us to experience distress or difficulties, there are actions we can take to improve our situation and find relief.
A Solution for TV 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 substance abuse and 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 TV 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
At my worst, I was binge watching whole seasons of tv as fast as I could most days of the week. I would take breaks throughout the day and watch in the bathroom. I would watch while eating, and I would isolate from my family in the evenings to watch some more. I didn’t want to be in my life, I wanted to escape my brain and be in an alternate reality. ITAA helped me realize that this relief is always temporary and an illusion. I am learning to be present in my life and have only had one binge in the last 6 months.
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.
My TV-watching 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.
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 TV Addiction
While there is no permanent or quick cure for TV 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 use of TV.
- 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 TV dependence 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 TV 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. This could include limiting our TV time to only watching when family and friends are present. Or we might choose to abstain from television watching and all streaming platforms. To engage more with the real world, we might also take up new activities in our leisure time that involve social interaction, such as exercise groups, creative activities crafts and community gatherings. 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 using TV to numb our emotions, we seek to use only use technology and screens as tools for meeting our goals, living in alignment with our values, and developing flourishing lives.
Types of Technology Addictions
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.
- התמכרות לסטרימינג is the compulsive and addictive use of any streaming platforms or content. This includes online videos, YouTube, movies, television, podcasts, and platforms such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, Twitch, or TikTok.
- 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 24, 2023