Summers Here, Will You be Out at 9pm?

It’s that time of year again where we see Love Island air on our TVs EVERY night (albeit Saturdays; where you can still gorge on an episode of ‘unseen bits’), for a whopping 8 weeks.  Here, you can witness beautifully toned, tanned bods (some that have had surgical enhancement), wearing the latest trendy bikinis. Muscular athletic men showcasing Popeye frames, who are regularly filmed working out to keep that ‘perfect fitness’ up, are just among a few noticeable observations.  There is no denying that these primed and pruned islanders are aesthetically pleasing and perhaps watching them can take us to a fantasy land of looking like them? Or maybe that’s just me…

On the contrary, I happen to be eating a very large bar of chocolate in some rather fetching lounging clothes, whilst watching the latest episode (missing it could, well give heart palpitations).  Despite the fact I am VERY tired and SHOULD go to bed and ‘switch off’. But I can’t. I just can’t miss it.  I’m hooked.  But how dangerous is it just to watch some reality show every night?  Is it so bad to want to watch something not too taxing that provides (for some) real entertainment that can end in a true love story?  We spoke with Lovelong House Lead Therapist Matthew Reece, to help us take a closer look at the psychological driving forces and if this could really be an addiction:

How you get your next fix

If you can take it or leave it, then maybe it could be harmless.  If, however, you cannot miss an episode, find your whole day shaped by getting your next fix and further fueling this craving by looking at Love Island social media; you may have a problem. Especially, if it takes priority over everyday activities then this can be classified as an addiction.

Binge TV vs Life Avoidance

First things first: enjoying your favourite TV programme and wanting to watch more of it is nothing to be worried about.  Where the line can be crossed and turns into the addictive process is when it is used as an excuse to avoid life situations, such as looking for work, dealing with authority and attending family occasions etc. As these things (or situations) are pushed aside, the associated anxiety created can lead to more avoidance and feelings of guilt, shame and low self-esteem.

What comes first – The Chicken or the Egg?

So why do people binge on certain programmes and why can it be harder to stop watching certain types of programmes? Love Island is a great example. Young, attractive people whose lives are played out on screen can project a “Blueprint” of how life should be. Fame, Parties, Money, attention and Drama. It’s certainly not dull! If a person has low self-esteem, social anxiety and/or body image problems a person can achieve a degree of escapism from their own lives.

However, the unrealistic lives portrayed on Love Island overtime will compound those Body Image, Self-Esteem and Social anxiety Issues making it a more attractive proposition not to engage in life and continue with “escapism”. Depression and Anxiety are common manifestations of this cycle.

Fantasy Icons and the Obsession

A bit like a high-profile celebrity obsession, people can use the islanders as a method of comparing themselves and wanting to ‘look like them’.  Ultimately changing themselves to look more like the idea of what is beautiful and socially accepted. This can be particularly so in young people who drink up many digital cocktails throughout the day.  In a world of social media, people are very easily sucked in. It’s not going to get any better and perhaps we just need to accept it? But when it becomes harmful and people are changing the way they look to feed their fantasy, it’s risky. The obsession can even lead to extremes of plastic surgery.

The Pros of Binge TV Watching

Back in the beginnings of box sets, you and your colleagues may gather around the photocopier to talk about the latest box set craze, maybe once a week.  Fast forward to today, and most people will be talking about Love Island’s last night’s episode around the fancy new coffee machine (maybe). This promotes bonding and communication and could create a connection- which has been well researched as a key component in addiction recovery. So, from that perspective, it can bring people closer.

So, what’s the verdict?

If you are watching in a non-addictive manner and ultimately gain enjoyment, then really it would seem harmless.  However, if you are prone to being addicted perhaps it’s worth exploring the real reason behind this. Our mental health is fragile, and we sometimes must be disciplined to do what’s best for our minds. If we must be disciplined about whether we watch it, perhaps that’s a warning sign. Anyway, I am going to detox (ish) tonight and watch half an episode then read my book. For me, that’s a good compromise.

To speak to someone with empathy and in confidence about one of our services, please get in touch with a member of our experienced staff today via phone or email by visiting our contact page.

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