Celebrity worship can mean shaping your life around someone with whom you’ve never had meaningful interactions.
People are amazing. They can do incredible things and are capable of impressive feats of athleticism, creativity, and ingenuity.
When someone reaches celebrity status, it’s natural to admire them for their accomplishments. You may even find yourself following their journey on social media or sharing in the joy of their recreational experiences.
The celebrity may even influence your life. You might feel motivated to travel, do humanitarian work, or make lifestyle changes, for example.
But when a celebrity is always on your mind, or you feel your identity depends on their identity, you may be experiencing celebrity worship syndrome.
Celebrity worship syndrome is a type of parasocial relationship that occurs when admiration of a celebrity shifts into an obsessive fascination and preoccupation.
It’s been described as an obsessive-addictive disorder, though it’s not a clinically recognized condition in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5).
Like all parasocial relationships, celebrity worship syndrome can be considered a one-sided, nonreciprocal relationship.
It involves one person who is investing a lot of time and energy into a connection with someone (in this case, a celebrity) who often doesn’t know the admirer exists.
Parasocial interactions and relationships aren’t uncommon — or necessarily negative. Connections you feel toward celebrities, or even fictional characters can impart positive lessons in life.
But celebrity worship syndrome is more than a parasocial relationship. It’s a pattern of behaviors that are often obsessive, compulsive, and addictive.
Experts believe it exists on a continuum, and several scales have been developed to measure its level of intensity.
One of the most prominent scales, the
As many as one-third of the general public may experience celebrity worship on a borderline pathological level.
There’s no known direct cause of celebrity worship syndrome.
As a condition with obsessive-addictive properties, the presence of certain mental health conditions may play a role in the development of celebrity worship.
People who may have a higher chance of developing celebrity worship tendencies include those living with:
- anxious-ambivalent and avoidant attachment styles
- minimal religious orientation
- fantasy proneness
- low self-esteem
- cognitive inflexibility (being uncompromising on beliefs)
- poor intimate relationship quality
- difficulty coping with conflict
- obsessive-compulsive disorders and behaviors (compulsive shopping, for example)
- poor personal boundaries
- addictive disorders
According to a 2018 study, other factors that may increase your chances of developing celebrity worship syndrome include daydreaming about the celebrity, having a strong desire to be famous, and compulsive behaviors such as obsessive internet use.
When something exists on a continuum — such as celebrity worship — it may present in various ways and intensities.
Celebrity worship can be mild in some cases. For example, you may name your firstborn child after your celebrity idol or change the way you dress based on your favorite celebrity.
The obsessive-addictive properties of celebrity worship can also present in more intense ways.
Having cosmetic surgery to look like your favorite celebrity, for example, could be considered celebrity worship.
Harassment, stalking, or otherwise inappropriate attempts at interaction can also be a display of celebrity worship at its extreme.
Celebrity worship syndrome doesn’t always turn your life upside down, but it does have the potential to impact your daily life.
Relationships — intimate, family, friends, and professional — can decline under the demands of celebrity worship.
You may avoid in-person social events, for example, in favor of online celebrity-oriented media, such as live streams or status updates.
You might unfairly compare your romantic partners to celebrity ideals or ignore your partner in favor of perceived celebrity connections.
In the business world, you may not be open to certain opportunities if they don’t feel aligned with what your favorite celebrity supports or represents.
While celebrity worship can affect those around you, it can also have a significant impact on your well-being.
Celebrity worship may be a manifestation of obsessive or addictive disorders, driving you toward harmful behaviors related to a celebrity, such as harassment.
You might go through unnecessary medical procedures or harsh treatments in an attempt to look more like your celebrity idol.
You may constantly compare yourself to your favorite celebrity if you have low self-esteem. You might talk down to yourself or be overly critical if you don’t live up to what you consider to be their standard.
Worshiping a celebrity may make you follow product endorsements that don’t make sense for your current situation.
You could end up in financial distress as a result of purchases related to celebrity worship.
Are there positive consequences?
Having a parasocial relationship with a celebrity doesn’t mean that you will develop negative behaviors or lose relationships.
Some parasocial relationships can motivate you, help you learn healthy habits, and encourage positive lifestyle changes.
Admiring people around you, especially those who have reached celebrity status, can be natural. These people often have something about them you relate to — something that draws you in and captivates you.
But the nature of celebrity worship syndrome goes beyond admiration in some cases and could even cross over into obsessive-addictive behaviors.
If you feel as though you, or someone you care about, are displaying unhelpful behaviors related to celebrity worship, speaking with a mental health care professional can help.
If you’re unsure where to start, you can check out Psych Central’s hub for finding mental health support.