Kathleen Rusch

Staff Writer

One of the biggest problems affecting depressed students and their ability to succeed in school is binge-watching television shows. While most students can manage their binge-watching behavior, students who suffer from depression are more likely to use it as a coping mechanism to alleviate their depressive symptoms. This is because of the availability of shows from services like Netflix and Hulu and how television shows are designed to hook viewers into watching.

Students who struggle with depression may use binge-watching as a way to avoid their depressive thoughts or feelings.
Image Source: https://mashable.com/2015/12/16/netflix-binge-kit/#a9XTu0Mp6qqc

Television shows are written to be addictive and this traps depressed students in a cycle of dependency on them. When binging shows that have a lot of action scenes, a compelling love story and cliffhangers, the brain will continually produce dopamine, one of the chemicals responsible for a person’s happiness and pleasure. For students struggling with depression, the temporary surge of dopamine and the distraction of watching a show is a welcomed relief from their depressive thoughts. As the student continues to watch shows to alleviate their depression, a pseudo-addiction to binge-watching develops because of the brain’s craving for dopamine. Eventually, a depressed student will begin to neglect their assignments or other responsibilities in favor of binge-watching.

The availability of shows allows depressed students to ignore their symptoms. When depressed students become dependent on shows to alleviate their depressive symptoms, they continue to watch them instinctually. If episodes for a show are released once a week, binge-watching can be mitigated. However, when services like Netflix and Hulu release entire seasons of a show at a time, binge-watching becomes a convenient way to temporarily alleviate symptoms without receiving professional help.

In order to avoid dependency, depressed students are encouraged to place time limits on their binge-watching or to replace it with another activity altogether. Therapy is also recommended for students who are struggling with depression or have unhealthy habits like binge-watching that they want to discuss with a counselor. Students at Benedictine University who want to speak to a counselor may make an appointment by phone or in person at the Counseling Center in Krasa.