Hello. I developed a crush on a celebrity when I was 10 and it has grown into an obsession that I can’t stop (I’m 23 now). I’ve been diagnosed with generalised anxiety and have had depression in the past linked to poor self-image/esteem. My family relationships are good. I’ve had two relationships, one when 13 and the second when 15. The first time I was used by him and for 3 years until I got over him, whenever he was dating someone I would try hard to look like them (hair/makeup/clothes etc.). The second was emotionally abusive but I broke-up after a month and never wanted to reconcile. I thought about this celebrity less while in relationships but never fully stopped. Since my teen years I’ve fantasised about them: being in a relationship, conversing with them, being intimate (sexually) etc. When in a relationship with another female celebrity I became obsessed with her and still am, saving hundreds of pictures of her, watching all the interviews I could because I wanted to act, sound and look like her, eat, exercise and use the same beauty products as her if I could find that information. Whenever seeing pictures of them I feel a painful pit in my stomach. I would follow pages on instagram that followed them. After they broke up I stayed obsessed, less than initially but still, focusing more on whoever he’s currently with/dating (he’s with a regular girl now). I’ve tried to pursue his interests (e.g. art and watch the same TV shows) and also more recently tried to even use the same products and dress the same way he does if I can find that info (But I don’t want to be a man). I’m seeing a clinical psych and she said she’s unsure and to just avoid checking their social media (tried many times and even after over a month of abstaining from all social media it never worked). I’ve tried journaling, meditating, talking to friends and some things help a little but not much. I can barely differentiate what I like and what him/his girlfriends like. I can’t concentrate for a few minutes without them popping in my head even when I don’t want them to. Avoiding doesn’t help and I don’t want to, nor replace it by forcing myself in a relationship. I want to confront it so I never have the issue again.
Though they are few in number, there are studies about celebrity worship. Those who have studied the phenomenon observe that celebrity worship exists on a continuum. At one end, celebrity worship is akin to being a passionate fan. A fan is an individual who is enthusiastically devoted to the support of something or someone.
At the other end of the spectrum are individuals whose celebrity worship is considered unhealthy and problematic for their lives. This type of worship involves expressing excessive empathy with a celebrity’s successes and failures and obsessively tracking the details of their lives. In extreme cases, pathological worshipers progress into stalking or other types of dangerous behaviors.
Celebrities and other public figures are at a greater risk for violence than they have been historically. This is especially true for celebrity athletes. The advent of the internet, especially social media, has made it easier for fans to interact with celebrities in a manner that was not available previously. Social media may cause some fans to believe they have a more personal relationship with a celebrity than they do in actuality. Social media also has the potential to magnify the intensity of a fan’s feelings and fantasies toward the celebrity.
Studies have indicated that individuals who engage in celebrity worship display the following personality characteristics: sensation-seeking, cognitive rigidity, identity diffusion, poor internal boundaries, and narcissism. Individuals who demonstrated medium and high levels of celebrity worship were prone to fantasies and disassociation.
Being prone to fantasies means that an individual regularly engages in the cognitive activity of imagining situations, ideas or stories that are impossible or improbable.
Disassociation involves feeling detached from one’s physical and or emotional surroundings or one’s own identity. It is commonly associated with individuals with a history of traumatic experiences. It is considered an unconscious coping mechanism that evolves in response to painful experiences. In short, disassociation is a psychological mechanism that temporarily numbs unpleasant emotions.
When you think about it, it makes sense that being prone to fantasies and experiencing disassociation are correlated. An individual who is prone to imagining improbable events, and thus caught up in their imagination, may struggle to feel connected to their surroundings.
Studies also suggest that individuals who engaged in celebrity worship often had sexual thoughts and feelings about their favorite celebrity, were more apt to struggle with addiction, had tendencies toward engaging in criminal behavior, including stalking, and were prone to compulsive buying. They also had higher levels of depression, anxiety, somatic symptoms, social dysfunction, and reported lower levels of overall life satisfaction.
The aforementioned research is not to suggest that you have any or all of these traits or symptoms. Thus far, the research in this area is limited and more work is necessary to determine what underlies celebrity worship.
You mentioned that you began worshiping your particular celebrity of interest at the age of 10. It remains with you 13 years later, though to a lesser degree. It could be that this is a behavior that you have grown accustomed to and or it provides some level of comfort in times of stress.
You’ve tried to stop but are struggling. Part of the problem may be that you are unwilling to stop. There is a difference between being unable to stop and being unwilling to stop. You seem to be indulging your obsession. Think about it. You are purposefully tracking your favorite celebrity and their love interests. If you didn’t search for that information, it is unlikely that you would know about it. It is a choice that you are making. The good news is that you can make a different choice.
You’re in counseling and that is a good but you may need a different therapist. The two of you seem to be focused on the celebrity worship as opposed to the underlying motivation that is driving your behavior. A different focus may help. If no progress is being made, then a different therapist should be considered.
It’s good that you are open to treatment. It significantly increases your probability of success. It may be that you simply haven’t found the right help. If you’d like to explore other options, contact three or four therapists over the phone and talk to them about this issue. Choose the one you like the best and meet with them in person. Choose the one with whom you feel the most comfortable. That person will likely be your best choice. Thanks for writing. Good luck and please take care.
Dr. Kristina Randle