Why Do People With Anxiety Re-Watch TV Shows?

Among people with anxiety, it’s a common phenomenon to continually watch the same TV shows, podcasts, and movies. Though this is a well-known part of having anxiety, many people don’t know why it occurs. Someone with anxiety might describe it as comforting, familiar, or easy. In this blog, we’ll discuss the psychological reasons behind people with anxiety re-watching the same programs.

The Mere Exposure Effect and Anxiety

When a person looks at something they’ve seen before, they may get warm and fuzzy feelings. Those feelings reinforce the desire to look at it again. Comfort and positive feelings occur because of the mere-exposure effect. The mere-exposure effect happens when a person prefers something simply because they’ve been exposed to it before. It’s important to acknowledge that the opposite occurs when a person is exposed to a stimulus they preconceived as negative.

As this applies to the initial question, a person with anxiety may re-watch TV shows they like because they find comfort and positive feelings in the familiarity. Their mind could bring them anguish and distress regularly. They could also feel these negative emotions when trying to engage in a show they’ve never seen before. Instead, they could watch the same show repeatedly just to feel something positive.

Lowered Cognitive Load

As a person watches the same show over again, they increase their perceptual fluency. This means that their brain processes it easier than it would something new. It lights up the same neuropathways over and over, priming them for activation.

Keeping this in mind, it makes sense that a person with anxiety would re-watch the same shows. Their cognitive abilities are constantly cluttered by their worries. They have less cognition to give to any activity. Re-watching a show takes their brain less focus and cognitive effort to achieve the same effect.

Feelings of Control

For a person with an anxiety disorder, their diagnosis is out of their control. Then, they go about their daily life, which is also mostly out of their control. Next, they’re flooded with thoughts that are largely out of their control.

To maintain some semblance of control over their lives, a person with anxiety may watch the same TV shows repeatedly. They choose the genre, the emotions, and the characters they’ll mentally interact with. It’s not a lot, but sometimes this is just enough control to prevent an anxiety attack.

If you struggle with anxiety, you may find yourself watching the same TV shows over again. The enjoyment of this repetition comes from the mere-exposure effect, the decreased cognitive load, and the sense of control. This can provide relief from the symptoms of anxiety; however, it’s important not just to put a bandaid on the issue. At The Guest House, we can help you heal from your anxiety disorder. We’ll teach you healthy coping mechanisms to use in daily life. For help, contact us at (855) 483-7800.