YouTube addiction is the compulsive and harmful use of the YouTube video streaming platform. It’s a subset of התמכרות לאינטרנט וטכנולוגיה that revolves around compulsively watching online video content to the point where it affects our physical, emotional, and mental well-being. Watching YouTube excessively can lead to changes in our brain that compromise our ability to focus, prioritize, regulate our mood, and relate to others.
Those of us who have come to identify as YouTube addicts experienced several common symptoms. We found ourselves binge-watching videos, going down rabbit holes, and passively watching the next video chosen by the autoplay algorithm, despite our attempts to cut back our use and stop watching. We often compulsively watched new content from our favorite content creators and channels, or found ourselves watching unnecessary videos after clicking on something random on our homepage. When we weren’t watching YouTube, we experienced distraction, anxiety, and irritability. We were unable to enjoy and be present with our offline lives. We used YouTube to alter our moods and escape our problems. Our addiction jeopardized our relationships, educational pursuits, and career opportunities. We felt shame and demoralization about our use of YouTube.
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 YouTube addiction in our lives:
YouTube Addiction Questionnaire:
- Do I ever go on YouTube to quickly watch something and then discover that hours have passed?
- Do I ever swear off or set limits around YouTube, and then break my commitments?
- Do I have YouTube binges that last all day or late into the night?
- Do I turn to YouTube whenever I have a free moment?
- Does my use of YouTube 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 on YouTube?
- Does my YouTube use contribute to conflict or avoidance in my real life relationships?
- Have my video-watching behaviors jeopardized my studies, finances, or career?
- Do I hide or lie about the amount of time I spend on YouTube or the kinds of digital content I consume?
- Do I feel guilt or shame around my use of YouTube?
Nobody should have to suffer because of their online video-watching behavior. If you’ve answered yes to several of the above questions, we encourage you to consider getting support.
What are the effects of YouTube Addiction?
YouTube addiction is a subset of internet addiction. The first researcher to investigate internet addiction disorder (IAD) was the psychologist Dr. Kimberly S. Young, who first published 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 internet addiction disorder, and the American Psychiatric Association’s diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (DSM-5) has begun to acknowledge the severity of digital addictions through its inclusion of internet gaming disorder. There is widespread consensus from both researchers and clinicians that the problematic and compulsive overuse of streaming content has been rising over the past two decades, and these behavioral addictions are 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 a YouTube addiction has impacts in our daily lives as well. Internet and technology addiction is strongly associated with mental illness disorders such as 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 cardiometabolic disease, sleep disturbances and 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 problematic internet use (PIU) 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 YouTube Addiction?
YouTube addiction is a condition that can affect people of all ages, from adolescents and high school students to those later in life. Our meetings include young adults, college students, working professionals, parents, and retirees. Today, the vast majority of people begin watching YouTube for the first time in childhood, even before they’re two years old. While the risk factors are varied and many people can watch online videos without experiencing problems, YouTube addiction does not discriminate based on age, educational level, socio-economic status, 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, spending time on YouTube excessively can impair our lives; and by contributing to depression and suicidal tendencies, our addiction can be life-threatening. Regardless of our background, if our video watching is causing us to experience distress or difficulties, there are actions we can take to improve our situation and find relief.
A Solution for YouTube 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 YouTube 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 one point in my YouTube addiction, I was subscribed to nearly 300 channels. Every day I binged on each morning’s fresh deluge of daily releases, 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.
I used to binge watch for countless hours. ITAA’s tools of recovery and the fellowship have helped me to make better choices, one of which is to not binge watch YouTube anymore.
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.
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 YouTube Addiction
While there is no permanent cure for YouTube addiction, the condition is treatable, and there are concrete actions we can take to recover from our compulsive YouTube use 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 online video watching.
- 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 YouTube 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, and other Twelve Step fellowships. 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.
What Does Sobriety From YouTube 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. For those of us who are YouTube addicts, this can mean practicing abstinence from all online videos, or only watching online videos as necessary, or not using the YouTube platform in the first place. We might also deactivate YouTube account subscriptions, limit our use to necessary tutorials only, delete the YouTube app from our smartphones, take a month-long pause from YouTube, or delete our account altogether so that YouTube’s algorithm does not show us tailor-made content.
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 YouTube 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 doing things that are positive for our well-being.
Types of Internet Addiction
Frequently, our YouTube addiction coexists with other forms of excessive screen time. 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 experienced, sober 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, 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 non-profit corporation incorporated in the state of Colorado, and we are currently in the process of applying for US federal tax-exempt status.
Page last updated on ספטמבר 3, 2023