We all enjoy hearing the latest celebrity news and gossip. But things got weird on January 24, 2014, when MSNBC interrupted an interview with a U.S. congresswomen to air breaking news about Justin Bieber’s latest brush with the law. It’s one thing for people to follow celebrity antics but when a major news outlet acts like a giddy teen every time a celebrity is spotted doing something outrageous, you have to wonder if society is suffering from celebrity worship syndrome.
Celebrity worship syndrome
There seems to be a name for every personality quirk, so it comes as no surprise that an exaggerated interest in celebrities qualifies as a psychological disorder. Nicole Plumridge provided background on celebrity worship syndrome (CWS) in a May 12, 2013, post for PsychMinds.com titled, “Celebrity Worship Syndrome.”
Like any psychological disorder, CWS is a problem that occurs when a normal behavior goes to the extreme. For example, an interest in your favorite celebrity’s makeup or fashion secrets is fine so far as it goes. But that interest can become crippling if you find yourself spending too much of your time focused on celebrities.
According to Plumridge, the British Journal of Psychology reported that one-third of the people studied qualified for a diagnosis of CWS. She blames the way media covers celebrity news for fueling our desire for celebrity news.
“It encourages CWS because then it sells more magazines, has more viewers and followers. In short, it makes money off people who have CWS,” Plumridge said.
The dark side of celebrity worship
Why is it that we as a society give so much power to people who do very little of importance? Nicole Plumridge stated that our DNA drives us to feel more comfortable when there is a social hierarchy in place. We like to have alpha males and females in place and look to them for guidance.
John F. Schumaker described how celebrity worship can become dangerous in his June 2005 article for CCPA Monitor titled, “A Plague of Celebrity Mania: Cult of Celebrity Worship Spreading around the Globe.”
Schumaker stated that those suffering from CWS have a dangerous fixation on a celebrity. This fixation consumes their life as they sink deeper into the delusion that their chosen star is aware of their interest and reciprocates it.
However, celebrity worship often turns to hatred because many worshippers hold the object of their affections to inhuman standards.
“Some feel as if they have property rights over their celebrities-and thus get vindictive when their advice is ignored or when their letters, e-mails or phone-calls get no response. The irony of CWS is that the worshippers often end up feeling superior to their idols,” Schumaker said.
Celebrity worship isn’t new. Examples can be found as far back as the 1880s. But with the spread of movies and television, our obsession with the lives of celebrities has grown to the point where it presents a danger to impressionable minds.
Leah Pickett offered insight into our willingness to see celebrities as role models in her March 25, 2013, post for WBEZ.org titled, “Rihanna, Bieber and the dangers of celebrity worship.”
Pickett points out that we tend to look to pop singers and athletes as our heroes, yet many of them are self-indulgent hedonists who do nothing for society. There are notable exceptions, however. Pickett referred readers to the Public Broadcasting Service documentary, Makers, which covers the contributions of women such as Hillary Clinton and Maya Angelou.
But you don’t have to go far to find your own hero. According to Pickett, “Our life-changing teachers, nurses, neighbors, social workers, mentors, counselors, close family and friends are the true unsung heroes of our society; never to receive the same widespread media coverage as Rihanna and Justin Bieber, but always the ones whom we should value the most.”
Breaking the addiction
According to psychotherapist Sherry Gaba, treatment for CWS is no different from treating any other type of addiction. Gaba outlined the path of CWS in her September 3, 2013, article for EverydayHealth.com titled, “Is Celebrity Worship an Actual Addiction?”
First you have to see yourself living a life that is free from the need to be in a relationship with a celebrity. Gaba explained, “Looking for the positive aspects of that celebrity in the people around you and learning to focus on what is already in your life is a key factor in breaking this addiction.”
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