Magazine after magazine, TV program after TV program, all churn out the latest news on celebrities. If it’s not the latest romance they are discussing, it’s the new look, if not that, the new movie. There’s always something. Have we, the readers and viewers of this constant stream of updates, come out unscathed? According to the latest research, it seems not.
As with all psychological disorders, there’s a spectrum to take into consideration from mild to extreme. If you look to celebrities for fashion tips and the latest hair trends, you’re probably ok. If you’re searching them on Google, Twitter, MySpace, Facebook, Youtube digging up every interview, speech, clip they ever made, then there’s a problem. If you need your stardom fix constantly, what started off as an innocent fascination has led to a full blown addiction.
Celebrity Worship Syndrome (CWS), however, is not uncommon. According to the British Journal of Psychology out of the 600 people studied, approximately a third qualified for the diagnosis of CWS. This occurs when the celebrity becomes the central figure in the person’s life.
Not only is it a relatively ubiquitous disorder, it is also partly in our DNA. Since we are social animals, we tend to feel comfortable when there is a social hierarchy in place. At the top are the alpha males and females. They are our role models and we look to them for guidance. In our society, the alpha males and females are the ones we read about in the paper, clog up our Facebook’s and bombard our Twitters. They are celebrities. It is natural for us to admire and emulate them. When this natural phenomenon morphs into obsession, CWS emerges.
Many people tend to feel personal connections with the celebrities they worship, similar to a friendship. Usually decreases in self-esteem and social dysfunction follow after heavy online stalking of celebrities. Also increases in anxiety and depression are likely when one’s emails or phone calls go unanswered.
Although the media is not entirely to blame since people with this disorder would probably focus their attention on someone else if it wasn’t on celebs, it still has a lot to answer for. The mass media is constantly bombarding us with impossible images and expectations. It’s an omnipresent force which is impossible to escape. It encourages CWS because then it sells more magazines, has more viewers and followers. In short, it makes money off of people who have CWS. Celebrity worship isn’t something new. It is only reaching new abnormal extremes because the media is reaching new pervasive and invasive extremes.
Celebrity worship is not intrinsically unhealthy. To an extent it can actually have positive effects. If you admire celebrity’s achievements, it could motivate you to do something similar. Reading articles in magazines about celebrities could also be a diversion, a way to decrease stress and help you relax.
Causes of CWS could be partly due to the media but also partly to do with the individuals themselves and the type of upbringing they were exposed to. If the individual grew up within a household whereby he or she did not have a role model to look up to, he or she may be more vulnerable to acquiring CWS. Also there is the problem of cause and effect. Does CWS cause depression and anxiety or vice versa? Furthermore, if one does not have a good support system and friends, one may be more susceptible to CWS.
The best thing to do if you have CWS or know someone who is affected by it is to try keep busy and distracted. Engage yourself in activities and/or work to keep your mind off celebrities. Try to gradually pull yourself away from celeb news. Decrease time spent on the internet and reading magazines by 15 minutes, then half an hour, then an hour. Also improving social relationships and making them more fulfilling would be helpful, spend more time with friends and family. If it is severe CWS, seeking therapy and perhaps medication would be beneficial.
Do You Have Celebrity Worship Syndrome?
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Carr, C. (n.d.). A New Age of Celebrity Worship. WebMD. Retrieved May 12, 2013, from http://www.webmd.com/balance/features/new-age-celebrity-worship?page=2
Lewis, R (November 20, 2012). Does your child have celebrity worship syndrome? The National. Retrieved May 12, 2013, from http://www.thenational.ae/lifestyle/well-being/does-your-child-have-celebrity-worship-syndrome