The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge announced this week that they are expecting their first baby. This news is everywhere…magazines, TV, radio, newspapers, the Internet…with pages and pages of details and information and even going to the extreme of creating computer generations of what the baby will look like!
So I started wondering, “Why do some people get so obsessed with gossip and news that surrounds famous people like celebrities and royalty?”
Think about it. Who doesn’t get caught up in all the gossip and glamour that revolves around the lives of the ones we all see in headlines and on screen? People are obsessed with movie stars, famous athletes, singers, royalty, politicians; you name it they are fascinated by every aspect of their lives. Fans and followers want to know what the famous are wearing, where they’re going, what they’re saying, whom they’re seeing, what they eat, what kind of car they drive, etc. It can get downright creepy.
Starting at a very young age people are told stories of fairytale legends of kings and queens, princes and princesses so when it comes to the Royal Family there is an extraordinary mania suffered by a lot of people, especially if born and raised in Britain because it’s almost impossible not to have learned the history of the Royal Family. They are constantly in the media, every day, year after year. Because of this continuous flood of royal fact and legend, all end up knowing details about them or becoming overly enamored with them, even without ever meeting them in person.
Fans and followers can get themselves so engrossed in not only the lives of the Royal Family, but other famous royalty and celebrities so deeply that it actually becomes an unhealthy obsession or addiction. Psychologists have recognized individuals like this as suffering from a newly identified psychological condition called Celebrity Worship Syndrome (CWS), and indicate that one in three people suffer from CWS and that one in four can be so affected by CWS that it disturbs their life on a day to day basis. Studies conducted in Britain found celebrity worship types ranging from harmless admiration to debilitation, being similar to alcoholism or drug addiction.
In the early 2000s, Dr. Lynn McCutcheon of DeVry University, US, and her associates were the first to derive the term “celebrity worship”. However it is believed the initial referral to Celebrity Worship Syndrome (CWS) was in an article by James Chapman who was reporting on a study released by John Maltby of the University of Leicester, UK, and his associates. This study was in the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease and was entitled, “A Clinical Interpretation of Attitudes and Behaviors Associated with Celebrity Worship”. CWS was actually a shortening of the “Celebrity Worship Scale”, which was used in the study. Dr. Maltby and his group identified the following three types of celebrity worship:
So what causes CWS? One theory by Stuart Fischoff, PhD who is the spokesman for the American Psychological Association states that the tendency to follow the lives of the famous are programmed into our DNA and says, “What’s in our DNA, as a social animal, is the interest in looking at the alpha males and females; the ones who are important in the pack. We are socially preprogrammed to ‘follow the leader’.”
There are individuals that don’t handle this inherent trait well compared to others and some followers suffer with recognizable mental health issues regarding CWS like anxiety, depression, social dysfunction, high stress, and poor body image. They can also form unhealthy obsessions with the famous by replacing normal relationships with parasocial or imagined relationships (making connections with whom they idolize instead of with real people).
According to evolutionary biologists, they say it is extremely common for individuals to appreciate those who receive a lot of attention because they have been successful in society. Therefore, individuals are drawn to the aura and status of celebrities and royalty because they are enamored with the fame and fortune and want to emulate them, sometimes taking it a little too far.
But the majority of the population enjoys a healthy pursuit of information regarding the lives of the rich, the famous, and the Royal Family and can actually improve their lives with their idol having a positive influence or having sett a respectable example. Some researchers even believe that admiring someone famous or being somewhat “star struck” may actually be beneficial; lifting people’s spirits because following a celebrity makes a person feel good and it’s exciting.
Bottom line… following the famous should just be an exciting and enjoyable part of your life, not your entire life.