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Celebrity Worship: How to Help Teens Obsessed with Stars

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The numerous articles and message boards concerning teenagers and star obsession and celebrity worship indicate that many parents would like and are in need of more information about this topic.

The phenomenon of celebrity worship among teenagers is nothing new. In the 1920's young female fans of matinee idol, Rudolph Valentino, were ovecome by mass hysteria when he died at the age of 31. Frank Sinatra's teen fans (known as "bobby soxers") would scream and swoon when he sang. For many teens, being obsessed with celebrities is merely a normal part of maturing, a rite of passage and usually harmless. But for some teens, being obsessed with stars is a manifestation of more serious problems such as depression. The intention of this article is to help parents recognize an unhealthy obsession and suggest ways to cope with a teen's fixation on a particular pop singer or movie star.

When I was 13, my bedroom walls were covered with posters of the Monkees and Beatles. I would rush to the store each month to buy the lastest issue of Tiger Beat or 16 magazine so I could read about David Cassidy, Davy Jones and other teen idols. I wrote fan letters and day dreamed about meeting the objects of my affections. I begged my parents to attend every rock concert and watch every TV show featuring my favorite celebrities; my friends and I discussed for hours all the things we would say and do when we met our favorite movie stars and pop singers. I drove my mother crazy! But after a few years, my obsession stars faded as I matured and gained the confidence to socialize with "real" boys.

In the 35 years since I was a teenager, celebrity worship has increased among teens due to the explosion of television celebrity gossip shows (Inside Edition, Entertainment Tonight), and instant access to celebrity news on the Internet. It's no wonder that many teens are obsessed with stars when news programs often lead with entertainment stories and American society seems to revolve around the lives of celebrities.

Celebrity worship syndrome (CWS) is now considered a personality disorder. The term "celebrity worship" was coined by Lynn E. McCutcheon and other authors at DeVry University in a series of articles published primarily in the  North American Journal of Psychology. Researchers have identified 3 levels of "celebrity worship":

  1. Entertainment-social: A normal appreciation of a celebrity because of their ability to entertain.
  2. Intense-personal: Compulsive feelings about a celebrity; a person may feel a special bond with a celebrity or that their life is also affected by whatever happens to a celebrity.  
  3. Borderline-pathological: Characterized by uncontrollable behaviors and fantasies regarding events involving favorite celebrities; may think that the celebrity is aware of them or would come to their rescue if needed or may feel angry and frustrated if a celebrity does not respond to letters or calls.      

While it is normal for teenagers to follow the lives of their favorite stars, parents should try to monitor everything their child finds interesting. Parents should take action if they suspect a teen is too obsessed with celebrities and becoming indifferent to school or withdrawing from the family.  When teens talk a lot about celebrities and view them as just sources of entertainment this is considered normal celebrity worship. However, when a teenager is obsessed with a star and often expresses a desire to have a close personal relationship with a celebrity or feels they have a special connection to a star, this may be the time for concern.  Recent studies have shown that teens who develop an unhealthy obsession with celebrities often suffer from low self esteem and depression. Teens who are overly obsessed with stars often have impaired relationships with their parents. Allowing this type of obsession to go unchecked can cause serious problems. In 2008, several celebrity obsessed teenagers found online the home addresses of Paris Hilton, Orlando Bloom and other young stars. The teenagers broke into their homes and stole property worth over 2 million of dollars. They were caught and arrested on felony charges. Although this is an extreme example of what can happen when teens become too involved with the cult of celebrity, parents can take steps to prevent a similar situation:

  • Encourage your children to become involved with school activities and get involved yourself when it's appropriate
  • Give kids responsibilities at home or suggest that they find a part time job after school or volunteer their time with others who are less fortunate
  • Give your teens the freedom to be self-expressive to explore the world around them; but learn to identify the difference between a harmless interest in pop culture figures and an unsound fascination with celebrities.
  • Most importantly, set an example of high character for your kids, without judging or lecturing. The more teens respect their parents, the less likely they are to idolize stars.

2 comments

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Posted on Feb 17, 2011
Vicki Perry
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Posted on Feb 8, 2011

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