Netflix and chill? Or could too much Netflix make you ‘mentally ill’?

5 reasons why Netflix isn’t so great for your mental health and human potential.

Netflix is frequently showing up in the therapy room. The consistency speaks volumes and I notice my eyebrows raising higher each time it appears. My curious mind wonders and I’m left asking whether Netflix is a hindrance to the therapeutic process? Have you ever considered unsubscribing? Sometimes, I like to play devil’s advocate with my clients and notice what happens. ‘It’s my comfort’, I am told, ‘NEVER. No way’ declares another. ‘Key, you know I commute three hours a day, what else would I do’? questions another.

The resistance is clear, it’s a no-go. Don’t go there, well that told me. So, it appears Netflix is here to stay, and I’d better get used to it being a feature in my client’s lives. Interesting. My ponderation continues and the following thought comes to me – Surely, if you’re coming to therapy it’s safe to assume your life, to varying degrees, is out of kilter? Surely, if you’re coming to therapy it’s safe to assume you want change and you’re up, to varying degrees, for scrutinising your behaviour, activities and what may feed into your discontent? If so, is it not expected that we consider how you spend your downtime and whether time hungry Netflix, may, in some sense, fuel your apathy and in the process rob you of developing your potential?

I don’t fully know, and I don’t have all the answers. What I am sure of is I am comfortable to sit with not-knowing, I trust the process. Moreover, I do see clues, I do see signs and overtime they knit together to reveal a tapestry representing a person’s life. As such, I know a great deal about what harms and enhances human potential.

In fact, human potential is at the heart of most common mental health problems.

The nub of the issue is often our experience of love (or a lack of it). I wrote extensively about this in my latest book, Why Love Hurts… and why self-love is the key. As such, I know that when we’re not living a life of purpose and passion common mental health problems naturally ensue. Why? Because we are out of sync with our authentic self and our emotions are simply there to alert us to the disconnect.

If you’re struggling with sadness or you’re not quite living your best life, if duvet days are turning into duvet weeks bolstered with boxset binges and complimented with culinary delights delivered by the likes of ‘Uber Eats’, then maybe it’s just the right time to reflect on your behaviour. Be honourable to yourself and consider unsubscribing because…

1. You lived before Netflix. Challenge yourself by unsubscribing and taking back control of your life. Notice what happens – you may be alarmed to discover your world does not fall apart. You may even grace yourself with an opportunity to try something new or to finally get around pursuing an interest you have put on the back burner for years.

2. You have a dream or ambition. Ask yourself if Netflix is distracting you from your purpose? Just remember Netflix was once an idea, a dream in the eyes of Reed Hastings and Marc Randolph (Netflix founders). You’re now consuming their vision, a vision that would have never materialised without hard work, dedication, delayed gratification, sacrifice, resilience, focus and perseverance. All mandatory skills when it comes to bringing a dream alive. Just as each programme, film, series, documentary on Netflix was once a dream in the eyes of the programme creators. They too had to knuckle down, manage distractions in order to bring their dream to life. So, what about you? Do you have a dream?

3. Netflix is highly addictive. Just like sugary foods; therefore, serious self-discipline is required. In addiction,  if you combine Netflix with Uber Eats it’s also likely that your physical (as well as mental) health may be impacted. Evidence suggests that prolonged TV consumption increases the risk of obesity and there is a strong link with obesity and self-esteem/self-confidence issues.

4. You experience the world through new first-hand encounters. Experience teaches wisdom, yet, if you’re not experiencing the world because you have a date with the remote control, or you feel like a ‘know-it-all’ because you’ve watched every documentary Netflix recommends to you then you are missing out. First-hand, real-life experience is invaluable for your well-being. Prolonged TV consumption may fuel loneliness, isolation and disconnection, all of which are proven to fuel common mental health problems. Remember, humans are social animals by design!

5. To binge is bad for you. In all other instances, the term binge is considered derogative. Binge eating and binge drinking, for example, are synonymous with a person that is out of control, who needs help, often at a professional level. Interestingly, in the realm of mass TV consumption, binge-watching has no negative connotations, no shame, stigma or secrecy is attached. In fact, binge consumption is actively encouraged and is ‘socially acceptable’. The media giants love this fact and have no shame in promoting it. Netflix is a time heavy resource and it’s likely there will be unintended consequences and repercussions when the balance is out of kilter. There will be a price to pay – will it be your relationships, physical and mental health, your aspirations, your general well-being? Only you can decide, the choice is always yours.

It’s clear, that the Netflix phenomena is here to stay. It’s all very interesting when modern-day phenomena show up in the therapy room, just as WhatsApp anxiety is a real concern, Netflix has the same potential to fuel disconnect.

This article is an amalgamation of my views gleaned from individual stories, personal battles and silent pleas for more meaning, purpose and certainty in this game of life. What’s personal is often universal. They say, life begins at the end of your comfort zone and I wonder if it begins by stepping away from the remote control? I simply hope this article has been useful in raising your awareness about a growing concern I am privileged to witness from a front line, first-hand perspective.

Take care of you, if you don’t, who will?


Does this resonate with you? Is there something you would like to work through? Get in touch by booking a free 15-minute exploration call with me or browse and enrol in one of my events and workshops. Don’t forget to sign up to my newsletter while you are here.

Keeley Taverner is a well-respected psychotherapist, author and coach. If you have been inspired by this article or would like to interview Keeley for your publications, please do get in touch.