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You can’t seem to get through a day without wondering about what will happen on the next episode of Lost. You don’t make plans that will conflict with any of your favorite shows. Does this mean you are suffering from TV addiction? The answer to this question relies heavily on your definition of addiction. Addiction is essentially defined as the desire to repeat behavior, and the inability to stop a behavior that may have harmful consequences.
So the biggest questions in considering whether you suffer from television addiction are the following:
1. Can you stop watching TV when you want?
2. Do you have to, or feel compelled to watch TV?
3. Is your TV watching having a harmful effect on your life?
Most addicts claim they can stop performing an addictive behavior whenever they wish. They often don’t try out this claim however. So if you think you may be suffering from TV addiction, a first test might be to turn the television off for a week, and see what that feels like.
This helps to answer question #2 also. If in that week, you find yourself aimless, lost without your TV, feeling like you should turn the set on every time you pass it, you may have taken the first step toward breaking TV addiction.
Question #3 requires some thought and perhaps some journaling to consider how TV might be affecting you or your loved ones. Of course, one harmful consequence of watching too much TV is that it means we move around less. Thus watching a lot of television is linked with a sedentary lifestyle. If you find that you are significantly overweight and watch a lot of television, you may be manifesting a harmful symptom of TV addiction.
As well, television tends to rob us of the ability to significantly contribute in conversation with the people in our lives. Do the kids act up all the time? Does your spouse seem remote? Do you have friends? Is your love life non-existent? The last question may seem frivolous but actually studies have shown that a television in a couple’s bedroom tends to reduce frequency of sexual intercourse.
Children acting up, or inability to communicate with a spouse may result from your eyes and attention being glued to the set far too often. When television interferes with your relationships and diminishes communication time with family, you might consider TV addiction the cause. As well, if your TV keeps you from making or keeping friendships, this is also considered a harmful side effect.
Often people use TV as escapism, and TV addiction is simply escapism carried too far. Conquering a habit like TV addiction is particularly difficult because watching TV is a socially acceptable activity. Like drinking alcohol, TV viewing is considered part of most people’s lives in most Western countries. Therefore, it may be more difficult to get this particular monkey off your back, since you are likely to be exposed regularly to many TV watchers.
Addiction also is challenging to break because we get short-term benefits or rewards from our addiction. A cigarette smoker may fully be aware that he or she is creating long term health issues, but the mental and physical benefits of that “one cigarette” overcomes considering long term effects.
If you find that your television is the dominant figure in your life, then perhaps the time to break the TV addiction has come, especially if you fit the description of an addict. This is not an easy path, but one should not be ashamed. The first step is ridding yourself of access to TV, and then working with others, like a good counselor, who can help you break free of this addiction.
If, you think you may be starting a TV addiction, consider spending a few weeks without turning the television on. Limit your viewing time afterwards to 2-3 hours a week. Also replace the time you would have spent pursuing TV addiction with other fun and interesting activities. You many find that breaking a TV addiction ultimately brings you exceptional rewards.