The Psychology behind Celebrity Worship. Who Rules you?!

2 Jan


Ever wondered why your best friend seems so infatuated with the music band; One Direction, so much so that every item in her bedroom seems to have their faces plastered all over it? Or perhaps a thing for The Wanted?! Whatever the case maybe, the “Celebrity worship syndrome” is becoming more and more prevalent within our society at large than ever before . Whether your Keeping up with the Kardashian’s or hooked on the Duchess of Cambridge; it is evident that the celebs that grace our magazines, television screens and even our phones on a daily basis; are simply and quite frankly – constantly on our minds. It is true that these famous individuals effect us all in such a significant way; you only have to walk into your local newsagent store to find someone frivolously flicking through their favourite magazine in order to get the latest gossip on their idol. Or perhaps visit a music concert, where young girls merrily throw their bras at their handsome famous idols. Whatever the case may be, whether we consciously or unconsciously know it, we all to some degree; have the “celebrity worship syndrome”.

But what exactly iNaomi Campbells celebrity worship?

The topic of celebrity worship is not only of media interest but its also now a focus of psychological investigation. The celebrity worship syndrome (CWS) can be defined as an obsessive- addictive disorder, in which an individual may become highly infatuated or involved in the specific details of a celebrity’s personal life; but is celebrity worship actually bad? The research does appear to be mixed on this matter. According to North et al (2007), there is a certain type of person that is more predisposed to celebrity worship and evidence even indicates that poor mental health is correlated with celebrity worship. However, the adoration of celebrities as role models or idols has been prevalent for many years and it can be argued that it is normal and a part of identity development within childhood and even adolescence (Giles et al 2004). Celebrity worship that is purely linked to entertainment is harmless and is a hobby for most people, this may involve reading and learning about the celebrity in question. This has been supported by Sheridan et al (2006), who stated that low levels of celebrity worship are said to have “Entertainment – social” value and consist of attitudes and behaviours such as “My friends and I like to discuss what my favourite celebrity has done”. With that said, celebrity worship can become a lot more serious and may verge on pathological behaviour and psychoticism.

The Absorption – addiction model of Celebrity worship – McCutcheon et al (2002)

1. Low levels of celebrity worship are said to have ->”Entertainment – social value” (characterised by light reading and enjoyment of celebrity gossip)

2. Intermediate levels of celebrity worship are said to reflect -> “Intense – personal feelings” (characterised by frequent thoughts about a celebrity)

3. Extreme levels of celebrity worship -> “Borderline pathological” (characterised by willingness to exhibit bad or illegal behaviour if a celebrity asked)

Kanye West Kim Kardashian-PPF-033615

Why do we identify so strongly with celebrities?

There are many clear and obvious reasons for this, firstly, many of the celebrities we like, we follow them, we therefore become more familiar with them and learn more about them e.g. what they like and dislike for instance. We may even reach that level whereby we feel like we “know” them and this may provide us with a sense of a shared identity. Especially celebrities like Paris Hilton or Kim Kardashian, who have reality TV shows whereby every part of their life is documented on the big screen for the whole wide world to watch. This provides people with an opportunity to identify with a celebrity and see what they get up to in their day to day lives. Many fans identify strongly with their favourite celebrity. Celebrities are an integral part of our society and our culture and therefore they are bound to effect us in some way or other.

Who is most at risk?

The celebrity worship syndrome is most prevalent amongst teenage girls. This is supported by Maltby (2005), who found that in female adolescents, there is an interaction between intense – personal celebrity worship and body image; between 14 and 16 years of age. However, evidence suggests that this relationship begins to disappear around 17 – 20 years of age.

The impact of Celebrity worship on mental health


The most extreme expression of celebrity worship is known as borderline pathological. In a study by North et al (2007), it was found that intense personal celebrity worship is associated with depression, anxiety, stress, negative affect, low life satisfaction and social dysfunction. Additionally, Maltby et al (2004), concluded that celebrity worshippers have lower psychological well-being than non- worshippers.

It is still not clear as to whether the psychological consequences of celebrity worship are due to practice or whether people with psychological issues practice Celebrity worship. Nonetheless, following celebrities is normal and healthy, but as it becomes more addictive, you may want to seek some help. Whoever your role model may be, it is always important to remember that they are human too, and will make mistakes along the way! Whilst we may identify very strongly with a celeb, they should not control who we actually are! Please have a look at the video below!Β  πŸ™‚


Giles, D. C. (2004). Parasocial interaction: a review of the literature and a model for future research. Media Psychology.

Maltby, J., Day, L., McCutcheon, L. E., Gillett, R., Houran, J., & Ashe, D. D. (2004). Personality and coping: A context for examining celebrity worship and mental health. British Journal of Psychology, 95, 411428.

Maltby, J., Giles, DC., Barber, L. & McCutcheon, L.E. (2005). Intense-personal celebrity worship and body image: Evidence of a link among female adolescents. British Journal of Health Psychology, 10(1), 17-32.

McCutcheon et al (2002). Are parasocial relationship styles reflected in love styles? Current Research in SocialPsychology, 7, 8293

North, A. C., & Hargreaves, D. J. (2007). Problem music and self-harming. Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior ,36, 582590.

Sheridan et al (2006). Celebrity Worship, addiction and criminality. Psychology, crime and law. 13 (6) 559-571.

Further reading


3 Responses to “The Psychology behind Celebrity Worship. Who Rules you?!”

  1. Tlo January 4, 2013 at 11:59 pm #

    Nice one, cuz! πŸ˜‰ Great video add too.

  2. psychologicalgirl January 5, 2013 at 3:21 pm #

    Thank you! Stay tuned for more interesting psychological posts! πŸ™‚ x

  3. MenteCuriosa December 31, 2013 at 3:58 am #

    Interesting. Thanks for sharing.

    “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”

    This phrase is attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt, and it sums up my perception as well.

    For me, the only angle with regards to the people who discuss or read about the lives of celebrities, for entertainment, is whether I ever could be satisfied in a meaningful relationship with this kind of person.

    I’m not much of a ‘great mind’, but I’m sure I wouldn’t.

    I was curious though about what motivates this.

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