Many teens admire and want to emulate the celebrities they see on TV and in magazines -- it's a natural part of growing up. In some cases, an obsession can get out of hand and go beyond what is considered standard teenage behavior, even bordering on dangerous. Knowing when and how to help your obsessed teen is imperative in order to stop -- or scale back -- an unhealthy fixation.
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Understanding the Obsession
Not only are celebrities often marketed to appeal to already vulnerable teens, their lives allow a certain amount of escapism for the public and promote a sort of idol worship. They can inspire teens to be better than they are, even if that image is a false one. Celebrities also allow for a shared experience among teens which they can use to differentiate themselves from their parents and other authority figures. This shared experience also promotes a sense of belonging.
When to Help
While you may not want to step on your teen's toes or hinder her growth and independence, it's important to recognize when harmless admiration slips into something more troubling. Celebrity Worship Syndrome is in fact recognized as a personality disorder characterized by a belief that one's own life is influenced by what happens to a celebrity and even sometimes uncontrollable behaviors and fantasies directed at a celebrity. If these warning signs appear, your teen needs help understanding her behavior is irrational.
What it Means
The manifestations of Celebrity Worship Syndrome as intense-personal and borderline-pathological, including believing irrationally one's life is personally intertwined with that of a celebrity, are linked to higher rates of depression, anxiety and general stress. Because of these risk factors, John Maltby, a researcher at the University of Leicester in the UK, notes teens impacted by CWS often already have strained relationships with their parents, in an article for "The National." These teens may be more alienated and may seem more difficult to reach, but don't assume they'll just grow out of it.
How to Help
There are ways you can help teens who have spiraled into the grips of celebrity obsession. Become more involved in your children's lives and push them to try new activities, including acknowledging what strengths they already have. You may also want to consider giving your teen more responsibilities around the house to divert her focus from her obsession. Don't underestimate the importance of talking to your teen about when casual interest goes too far, and always strive to be a good role model yourself.