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Essay: Relationship between binge watching and dissociation

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  • Published: 9 April 2023*
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New technologies, such as online streaming platforms like Netflix, Amazon , and digital recording, have now stared to end the tradition of watching television. Binge watching, which is also known as “marathon viewing” or “binge viewing,” is gaining popularity in recent years. . People with binge-watching behaviour often watch multiple episodes in a single go (Umesh and Bose, 2019). There is no voluntary control over the binge-watching behaviour. According to Pierce – grove (2017) binge watching takes the individuals into different state of consciousness.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic in lock down phase individuals where going through immense distress. As every one was isolated in the homes, this was a ideal state where ever individuals got engaged in binge watching behaviour as they had little to do. During the lock down the time spent of Indians on OTT platform was seen to be increased by 30-60% . According to one report 49% of Indian youth spent 2-3 hours being watching. During the lockdown on an average 65 individuals signed up for three new OTT platforms The average time spent on the OTT plat form was four hours

During this even if the individuals were found working from home yet they agreed that T.V / internet use increased .( Ayushi Dixit,Marthoenis 2020). According to this binge watching was used as coping mechanism, where individuals tends to replace there life with fantasy and imaginary world of the web series or television shows.(Lazaru and Folkman,1984). Conway and rubin(1991) says that there are six motivators for watching t.v which are passing time, entertainment, information, escape, relaxation and state enhancement according to( Mikos, 2006) it makes the individual get more involved into the story ,it transports the individual, where all the mental process and capacities become focused at the things occurring in the story ( green and brock 2000), this may lead to loss of access to the real world till the time an individual consumes media. This may include some physical symptoms like not noticing people coming in the room or being psychologically distant from the reality. A similar state is achieved in non-pathological dissociation. Where Non pathological dissociation implies that there is a change in state of consciousness which is not organically induced or doesn’t occur by any psychiatric illness, rather its just a temporary altered state. Dissociative symptoms can occur in patients but also in the general population, like us. Therefore, dissociation has commonly been conceptualized as ranging on a continuum, from non-severe manifestations of daydreaming to more severe disturbances typical of dissociative disorders There are very limited research done on binge watching and dissociation . The current research aims to know what is the relationship of binge watching and dissociation. And does excess binge watching leads to dissociative state

Literature Review

The word ‘binge’ was used first in English in the mid-1800s which mean ‘to soak’. At the time of World War I, the term ‘binge’ was know as to eating or drinking in excess The term binge-watching can be seen to be used as back as in 2003, but was prominently used from the year 2012. It become most popular during 2011 and 2015. Now it has become a normal way of consuming T.V series. ( Pierce Grove, 2017) . Pittman and Sheehan (2015) binge-watching is “ watching two or more episodes of the same series in a single sitting.” While there is not a specific number which will define threshold for this phenomenon, it is given that binge watching means watching a series of a single program for several straight hours in one sitting (MarketCast, 2013; MarketWatch, 2013). This concept is quite similar to the phenomenon of T,V marathon where people see many episodes in one go with help of rental DvDs (2014 Taden,) Many studies show that individuals in between the age 18-39 at a greater extent binge watch rather than older individuals,( Chang ,J 2020 ,Market Cast Study 2013). It is gender neutral phenomenon (Moore 2015).The past research on binge watching or extreme behaviour mentions that factors like amount of time , frequency and level of engagement are some of the important aspects measuring binge watching Motivation of binge watching can be explained by Uses and Gratification Theory (Rubenking 2018), according to which individuals indulges in media such as the internet, television, and social media to satisfy their needs. According to Rubin individuals indulge in T.V viewing for passing time , companionship ,arousal, relaxation , escape , social interaction.

The reasons why people choose to engage in binge behaviour may also be as a coping mechanism , but they all revolve around their attempts to escape or eliminate stress.(Wipu Wang , 2019). In one of the research done by Ayushi Dixita (2020) it was seen that in South Asian countries there was an increase in binge watching during the lock down period, There was a significant increase form 27.6% to 73.7%.Most of the participants (52.6 %) report the major psychological motivation for binge-watching was to pass time and escape boredom, 25% use it for relieving stress as well as 15.7 % use it for overcoming loneliness. Binge watching is taken from phrases such as “binge drinking” and “binge eating (Yoon Hi Sung 2018). The diagnostic criteria for binge eating says that binge eaters eat more frequently than required . This can also be said true for binge watching behaviour. As during binge eating it is seen that negativity has increased which is followed by momentary dissociation, where dissociation, seen which occurs due to the heightened aversiveness which tries to reduce the negative internal effect. This concept is seen under escape theory of dissociation where lowered self awareness leads to loss of control over eating Similarly According to a research done by Victoria Anzie (2020) individuals who frequently binged watched had more negative emotions than the individuals and the negative emotions are more associated to binge watching. Individual also often engages in binge watching as a way to escape reality and avoid problems and negative emotions.

The concept of “transportation” (Green & Brock, 2000) can help explain binge-watching engagement. Green and Brock (2000) has defined transportation as “a convergent process, where all mental systems and capacities become focused on events occurring in the narrative” (p. 701). The narration can be in any form. Individuals who are in state of high transportation get fully engrossed in the story, sometimes they cannot access to real-world information for the duration of such media consumption.. Here is when the viewers feels like that they have to continue to hit the next or play button.


Under dual processing in social cognation module consists of two process reflective and impulsive process respectively. Under reflective process has execution and change of behaviour where as , the impulsive process occurs more out side of the awareness and intentionality. Here in binge watching the reflective process is seen initially where as the impulsive process is silent but it is characterised as having continuous cueing of the episodes and an inbuild contingent reward mechanism, which doesn’t involve a conscious decision making which cause a an involuntary behaviour.(Emily Walton- Pattison , , Stephan U Dombrowsk. 2016)


Binge eating and Dissociation have common function of blocking negative effects. State dissociation appear to have a important role under binge eating behaviour.(Charli Hallings-Pott,2005)

The DSM-5 defines dissociation as “a disruption and/or discontinuity in the normal integration of consciousness, memory, identity, emotion, perception, body representation, motor control and behavioural distinction is often made between dissociative states and dissociative traits (e.g., Bremner, 2010; Bremner & Brett, 1997). Where State dissociation is viewed as a transient symptom, which lasts for a few minutes or hours (e.g., dissociation during a traumatic event). Trait dissociation is a integral aspect of personality, this is studied under non pathological dissociation.

The non severe dissociation can be also called as normative dissociation, this includes day dreaming, fantasy and absorption in every day life situation. This state is not organically induced as doesn’t occur as a part of the any psychiatric disorder and leads to a temporary alteration or separation of from the normative intergrated mental process.

There are two elements which are common in pathological and non pathological dissociation the first telescoping of the attention field which leads concentrating on narrowing range of experiences and exclusion of the internal or external material from the awareness related to the experience’s which may lead to temporary lack of reflective consciousness.

The other two elements related to normative dissociation are absorption and connotative involvement

Absorption is getting engrossed in recreational activities or getting engaged in every day work. During absorption attention is more focused and stable where as environmental and personal context is impaired. As voluntary control and awareness are the major elements of consciousness , when there is a disruption seen in one or both the process, disassociation is seen to be present. According to some studies there are multiple form of dissociative experience under which Absorption and Imaginative Involvement is one form under which individuals feel that when they are watching T.V or a movie they become very absorbed in the story that are unaware of what other events are happening around them(NielsG. Walller 1996)

Some filmmakers also intentionally seek to induce an altered state of consciousness in their audience, by doing this self-awareness can be reduced and personal concerns thereby dislocated, for some time. Here dissociation may act as a psychological clutch allowing the individual to disengage from aversive or wearisome experience Or they seem to be , flights into escapist behaviours (may) reflect the painfulness of having to be continuously aware of the variety of unfinished businesses in one’s life which cannot be acted upon relatively quickly.(Lisa.D.Butler,2006) According to Buttler and Palesh watching films videos or television are viewed as deliberately engaging in dissociative experiences. Video terminal Dissociation Trance was an attempt to develop knowledge of disorders which are connected to virtual realities this involve having a significant disturbances in the state of consciousness, identity, and memory, the dilution of self-awareness and self-integrity, and the replacement of the customary sense of personal identity by a new virtual identity. There are three factors considered under video terminal dissociative trance which are regression, Addiction and Dissociation, in this dissociation as a defence mechanism allows the people to avoid emotional distress for some time by screening out excessive or over whelming stimulus.( Adraino Schimmentil, 2017).


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