The 10 emotional stages of binge-watching a TV series.

Image: CBS.

It’s hard to imagine now, but back in the olden days — you know, when dinosaurs roamed the planet — TV shows were distributed and consumed gradually. Agonisingly so.

Viewers were forced to wait up to a week (seven whole days, can you imagine?) for each episode of their favourite series. This provided ample time for reflection and speculation. Would Carrie and Big finally sort their shit out? How was Chandler going to propose? Goddamnit, who killed Laura Palmer?

These days we can access entire seasons in one fell swoop — and anyone who has been in the binge-watching trenches knows these 10 emotional stages all too well:

1. Anticipation

There it is, waiting for you: the brand new season of Orange is the New Black. Oh, joy! You can’t quite believe it’s time to reunite with all your old (ahem, fictional) friends, or to meet some new ones.

You prepare for the viewing like you’re preparing for a date. You’ve cleared your schedule, you’ve got snacks, and you’re going in with clear eyes and a full heart… and a bad case of denial. ‘I’ll just watch two episodes now, then I’ll go to spin class. This time I’m going to space it out,’ you’ll tell yourself serenely.

Haha. Good one.

Watch: Those Two Girls nail what we’re all like watching the Oscars. (Post continues after video.)

2. Ecstasy

Those heady early days (or, um, hours if that’s how you roll) are sheer, unadulterated bliss. It’s like owning a new puppy — you’re overjoyed to have something waiting for you when you walk through the door at the end of the day.

3. Obsession

Here, you lose the ability to talk about literally anything else. When someone asks how you are, all you can respond with is, “I’m good, but I just can’t believe what’s going on with Alex and Piper right now.”

When you take a rare break between episodes, you start maniacally researching the actors on IMBD to find out everything you possibly can about their past (‘I can’t believe Krysten Ritter was in Gilmore Girls before Jessica Jones!’).

It’s like when you’re in the early stages of a relationship and you can’t stop thinking about, and name-dropping, your boyfriend. Only in this case, your boyfriend is… a TV show.

4. Identity crisis

Six episodes in, you’ve progressed to a whole new psychological stage. You’re so immersed in the show you feel like you’ve connected with the characters on a deep, personal level — at the cost of your own identity.


Subsequently, you might find yourself doing any combination of the following:

  1. Dressing like a character: Every Nashville fan in my life has developed a sudden, desperate need to own boot cuffs.
  2. Talking like a character: “I couldn’t help but wonder…”
  3. Behaving like a character: You can’t even admit to yourself that the sole reason you’re wearing heels around the house is because Claire Underwood does it in House of Cards.
  4. Feeling everything that character feels: I mean, how dare Jess treat Rory Gilmore like that.

5. Dependence

Obsession quickly turns to dependence, and before you know it you’ve almost completely cut yourself off from the outside world. If you haven’t taken a “sick day” from work, you’re definitely contemplating it. You haven’t been replying to texts, so your friends are starting to worry. Your mum is *this close* to alerting the police.

Forget your own family; all you really care about at this point is the plight of the Stark children. Which brings us to…

6. Detachment

Hello, you’ve officially lost touch with reality. At this point you have no idea where your own life ends and your favourite show begins.

Perhaps your obsession with Master of None has sparked a major existential crisis (‘What if my window for doing crazy shit really IS closing?’) or you refuse to attend a relative’s wedding because Game of Thrones has taught you it can only end in murder.

You might have begun comparing your friends and relationships to those on the screen, and judging others’ behaviour according to that of your favourite characters. ‘That is so rude, Tim Riggins would never say such a thing to Lyla Garrity,’ you tut to yourself. The fact that these aren’t even real people no longer occurs to you.

7. Full-blown addiction

Isolating yourself from the people in your life was one thing, but this stage? It’s next level. You’ve progressed to the point where watching the show has priority over everything, including: peeing, sleeping, eating, leaving your bedroom. You’re surrounded by a pile of chocolate wrappers and soft drink cans and you can’t remember when you last changed clothes.

You’re also a little… on edge. Even a two second lag to buffer gets you steaming.

8. Despair

It’s over. The show, that is, not your life — although that’s pretty much what it feels like.

No matter how happy you are with how the various narrative arcs have been tied up, you’ll inevitably feel lost; like a tiny Netflix-shaped part of you has died. You desperately check the screen to make sure you haven’t accidentally missed an entire season or skipped an episode, but to no avail. In extreme cases, you will shed ugly tears for what you’ve lost.

9. Withdrawal

The show might be over, but your obsession lives on. As if the gaping hole in your nightly routine isn’t torturous enough, you can’t help wondering what your characters might be doing now. Is Leslie Knope still kicking butt? Is she happy? Are Leslie and Ann still in regular contact? Do they miss you as much as you miss them?

10. Acceptance

You know what they say: when you fall off the binge-watching horse, or that horse dies, just get on another one. If you’re interested, I’ve heard that new Netflix show Flaked is good…

What are you binge-watching right now?