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Celebrity Worship Syndrome

Introduction

According to a survey conducted by the Child Welfare League Foundation in Taipei, more than 75% of responding children and teenagers ‘worship’ one or more celebrities. However, things could take a turn for the worse if the mentioned ‘worshipping’ becomes an obsessive practice. Psychologists have coined the term “Celebrity Worship Syndrome” (also known as CWS) to evaluate the obsessive-addictive disorder that comes with excessive celebrity worship.


Symptoms

  • Narcissism

  • Dissociation and maladaptive daydreaming

  • Addictive and criminal tendencies

  • Compulsive behaviour, such as stalking and excessive purchasing

  • Neuroticism (high stress levels, tense, overly emotional, mood swings)

  • Psychoticism (lack of empathy, egocentric, impulsive)

  • Depression, anxiety and social dysfunction

  • Identity diffusion (lack of stability in one’s identity)

  • Sensation-seeking

  • Deterioration in cognitive abilities

  • Low self-esteem

  • Poor interpersonal boundaries/social skills

  • Materialism

  • Concerns about body image

  • Proneness to undergo cosmetic surgeries


The Celebrity Attitudes Scale

The Celebrity Attitudes Scale offers an empirical method for psychologists to measure the intensity of individuals’ celebrity worship. Respondents are asked to evaluate their behaviour from a range of “1” (strongly disagree) to “5” (strongly agree) on three domains, which are often used to classify the levels of celebrity worship.


  • Stage 1: Entertainment-social subscale

→ This subscale indicates normative, low worship levels. Individuals typically seek entertainment through paying more attention to celebrities at this stage. Examples include reading about the celebrity, following the celebrity on social media.

Stage 2: Intense-personal subscale

→ This subscale indicates moderate worship levels. Individuals typically obsess over or have intense feelings for the celebrity at this stage. Examples include having frequent thoughts about the celebrity, considering the celebrity to be their soulmate.

  • Stage 3: Borderline-pathological subscale

→ This subscale indicates high worship levels. Individuals typically display pathological behaviours and attitudes as a result of celebrity worship at this stage. Examples include purchasing a napkin once used by the celebrity, being willing to commit crimes on behalf of the celebrity.


  • The higher the final score, the more obsessive the respondent is towards the celebrity

  • Higher worship levels also indicate poorer states of mental health; symptoms mentioned in previous slides are more likely to occur with moderate and/or high levels

  • More than one third of participants in an experimental test on the scale displayed moderate to high worship levels


Causes

There are currently no known direct causes of celebrity worship syndrome. However, many have theorised that the underlying causes of celebrity worship syndrome may be related to mental health-related issues and the environment that the individual has grown up in. CWS may aggravate preexisting mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety, while studies have shown that adults diagnosed with CWS are more likely to have experienced insecure attachments or trauma in their childhood.


Treatment

**Applicable to individuals who are experiencing high worship levels/some of the symptoms mentioned in previous slides

  • Reach out for advice and diagnosis from mental healthcare professionals. This will allow patients to recognize the mental health disorders they are experiencing.

  • Patients may opt for therapy and medication through such consultations. How such treatment will be carried out depends on the diagnosis and condition that the patients are in.

  • Patients are encouraged to engage in real-life activities that can boost their well being, such as exercising, spending time with close ones, exploring nature, and participating in community services, group activities and creative expression.

  • If possible, patients should stay away from social media or other means in which they will be able to gain more information about celebrities, and, therefore, prolong their obsession.


Sources

Researcher - Tiffany Fu

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