Ever felt an emptiness after binge-watching the entire latest season of your favourite TV show? Such a feeling is much stronger for some people, to the extent that experts are categorising it as a form of depression!
According to a study, situational letdown as we mourn the loss of a character in an Over The Top (OTT) series leads us into this state of depression.
“We often go into a state of depression because of the loss we are experiencing. We call this situational depression because it is stimulated by an identifiable, tangible event. Our brain stimulation is lowered, such as in other forms of depression,” clinical psychologist Dr John Mayer said in an NBC interview.
Indian doctors concurred. “Binge-watching gives people pleasure by closing out the world from their reality. It releases dopamine, a hormone that pleases people,” Hyderabad-based psychiatrist Dr Daljeet Kaur told South First.
“We become comfortable while binge-watching as we are getting pleasure. When the series ends, it signifies withdrawal symptoms like any other addiction, and some of us start feeling low,” she explained.
What is situational depression?
Situational depression is a short-term stress-related type of depression.
It develops after one experiences a sudden loss of something or a traumatic event.
It makes it hard for a person to adjust to everyday life following the event.
It’s also known as reactive depression.
Events that can cause situational depression include problems at work or college, a breakup, and even the illness or death of loved ones.
“Aetiology based on the situation in a person’s life — like a bad marriage, flood situation, or breakup — makes the mood go down and this causes situational depression,” Dr Pragya Rashmi, a psychiatrist at Asha Hospital in Hyderabad, told South First.
Situational depression from OTT binge-watching
A person may feel better while binge-watching a show.
After it inevitably ends, the person may feel a significant letdown.
The individual becomes invested in the meaning created by the storylines, the exciting events of the show, and the interesting worlds in which it all happens.
When that is over, the person is left facing dull reality.
“Let’s take the example of a person in Hyderabad or Bengaluru, working in an IT company. He or she will binge-watch for four-five hours where the storyline is about Uttar Pradesh, which the person has not visited. It will excite him, and provide comfort,” explained Rashmi.
“He is enjoying it on the phone, which is very close to the eye and very personal. It creates a psychological environment for him. After it gets over, the person has to return to normal life, where he feels overwhelming sadness because he misses that pleasure,” she added.
The psychiatrist also said that this was not a pathological feeling but normal for any person to feel.
“Feeling sad about anything is normal, and it’s not pathological. Withdrawal from pleasure causes this impact,” explained Kaur.
The problems with binge-watching
Many studies have found that binge-watching has negative consequences such as depression, anxiety, stress, and loneliness.
Also, it causes decreased physical inactivity, sleep problems, fatigue, blood clots, heart problems, poor diet, social isolation, behavioural addiction, and cognitive decline.
“Binge — the word itself — surfaced in the last decade. Binge which means excessive indulgence in an activity, especially eating, drinking and watching television. Any excessive activity can cause several problems,” said Dr Pragya Rashmi.
How to get over situational depression?
Psychiatrists say that first of all the person has to stop binge-watching.
“OTT is a visual medium. It’s like curd rice: You just have to take it and eat it. There is a constant pleasure but no cognitive input. So, to get the taste and what is there on the plate, the person has to eat the curd rice slowly, spoon by spoon, realising that he is taking each spoon at a time,” said Rashmi.
“Similarly, to not feel sad or lonely periodically, the person should watch by episodes so the pleasure will be divided over a period of time, and also cognitive inputs will be open,” she added.
Kaur added that the person has to understand that this is a problem they face every time.
“Accepting the problem is the first step to knowing it. After that, the person has to indulge in meaningful tasks that fulfil their daily life. Also, if watching, do not get persuaded to watch all the episodes continuously. Plan it properly,” she explained.