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Fame Addiction Is Real and Treatment Is Available


There’s this sense of “not good enough.” It’s all driven by advertising and commercials telling us that we need to look like this and take that medication, and that we need to have achieved our own Twitter following…and it’s out of control.

Is it possible to be addicted to fame? As it turns out, yes, and you can get treatment for it — what may surprise you is that you don’t have to be a mega-star to be affected by it.

I spoke with Dr. Reef Karim, a psychiatrist and addiction specialist, who started a treatment program at his personal transformation center, Lumion Centers (formerly The Control Center), which is dedicated to helping people addicted to fame. He describes the condition like this:

“Fame Addiction is a behavioral condition centered on the desperate need to be seen [in order] to self-soothe. People suffering from difficulties with fame are bored, impulsive, anxious, unfulfilled, and all share the same ultimate fear: being invisible. They are looking for something on the outside to define them on the inside.”

The need for something outside of oneself to “fix” oneself will no doubt sound familiar to any person in recovery from addiction. But is that all it takes for something to qualify as an addiction?

Dr. Donna Rockwell, PsyD, is a licensed clinical psychologist with a celebrity mental health practice in New York City. Rockwell specializes in fame and celebrity psychology. In her paper “Being a Celebrity: A Phenomenology of Fame,” published in the Journal of Phenomenological Psychology, she divided the fame experience into four phases: Love/Hate, Addiction, Acceptance, and Adaptation.

When asked if she believes that some people enter the “addiction” phase of fame and never move forward from there, she responded with an emphatic, “Why yes I do. What happens is that people get addicted to the neurological responses to being recognized, lauded and applauded. It’s a neurological response to an environmental situation.”

So there is a chemical, biological component wherein the fame addict is compelled to seek the “drug of choice” by repeating the behavior. Not only that, but in the same way that, say for example, a heroin addict needs more and more of the drug to get high, the same is true of the fame addict.

“I think we see that in the Internet blood fest with high-end celebrities who are using it to continually promote their brand,” Dr. Rockwell contends. “Even the notion of the star themselves or their camp notifying the paparazzi of where they are going to be. And I’m not speaking of everyone, but individually, the situation can be created where they continue to feed that need for recognition. There’s this underlying impetus to get more and more more famous, more followers, more likes—it’s the ‘more’ that creates the addiction cycle.”

But how is fame addiction defined, and how do you know if you have it?

For more information about fame addiction, including characteristics and what to expect from treatment, check out the rest of the original feature article, Can You Really be Addicted to Fame? over at The Fix.

Fame Addiction Is Real and Treatment Is Available

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APA Reference
Guest Author, P. (2018). Fame Addiction Is Real and Treatment Is Available. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 1, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 18 Oct 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.