The Netflix Addiction: Why Our Brains Keep Telling Us to Press Play


I love Netflix, I’ll admit it.

Many are the nights I’ve sat up with my husband after the kids have gone to bed, watching one more episode of Orange is The New Black, and looked up at the clock to see it’s way past my usual bedtime.

Score! You finished another episode!

Have you ever thought of watching a whole TV season… or series… as a major accomplishment? Have you ever been at a party and compared notes as to how far through which season you are? It seems silly when placed next to other “real” accomplishments, but Netflix is designed as a checklist for a reason. When we check an episode (or season!) off our list and move to the next, it triggers that gorgeous neurochemical cascade of serotonin (satiety) and dopamine (pleasure).

We’re actually tapping into the reward center of our brains when we achieve a whole new level of Netflix mastery. Finishing a number of episodes, or even a whole series allows us to feel as if we have completed a task, which causes a surge of dopamine release in our brains. This dopamine then motivates us to keep watching more, creating a feedback loop that is seemingly never ending.

Dopamine release and motivation is a hallmark of addiction, which poses the question: Could we become addicted to Netflix? Many of us joke of being ‘addicted’ to our favorite shows, but maybe this sentiment means something much more serious to someone else. Since 1996, Internet Addiction Disorder has been studied and considered for inclusion into the clinical setting as a documentable disorder. And, while this represents an extreme that won’t affect most Netflix users, it is a reality when you’re talking about binge-watching TV for hours on end.

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