The problem with My Strange Addiction

mystrangeaddiction

Happened to catch a couple of episodes of My Strange Addiction the other day. It’s a half-hour long show from the US where they feature people with addictions that most of us would deem bizarre, to say the least. We’re presented with the person in question and get to see them engage in their weird habit. Then they “come out” about it to a friend or family member, who go “errr … okay? Are you sure that’s good for you? Perhaps you should see a doctor, just in case” and the addict replies “I know what I’m doing and it’s not bad for me, but okay, I’ll go see someone just to keep you happy.” And they do, and then the show’s over with a title page to say whether or not their habits have changed since filming the show.

This could be such a fascinating show to watch, but it’s such a let-down. Instead of actually being helpful, it feels more like a freakshow. “Wow, you’re weird! Tell a friend how weird you are!”

One of the reasons why UK show Freaky Eaters was so incredibly watchable is because they got the format right. Yes, if your diet for the past 30 years has consisted of nothing but cheddar cheese, that’s weird. Their friends and family are generally already aware of the problem, so no “coming out”. The show then goes on to have the person see a doctor about it to find out how the one-sided diet has affected his or her health, and gets both counselling and coaching from the show to overcome their eating problems. The show is an hour long and only features one case.

There’s still the whole “wow, you’re weird!” factor for us viewers, but instead of treating the addict as a curiosity, the whole show is geared toward problem-solving. The addict has a problem, and we’re going to do our darndest to help them understand why the problem developed in the first place and then try to help them overcome this and learn to eat a more varied diet. It yields results, the addicts’ quality of life improves, and they feel better about themselves. Mission accomplished. There are many insights into the human psyche you can get from watching the show.

With My Strange Addiction, there’s none of that.

Take for instance one of the addicts in the episodes I saw. She was obsessed with the size of her breasts, had spent $250k and nearly died getting them up to KKK size. She has back problems and trouble finding clothes that will fit. Now, no plastic surgeon is willing to operate on her, so she wants to go to Brazil to get them to MMM. Her family and friends are concerned for her health, but all the addict sees are “my massive boobs aren’t big enough”. It’s clear she has a case of body dysmorphic disorder. Her friends ask her to please see a doctor before heading off to Brazil, and she reluctantly agrees. The plastic surgeon in question states to the camera that she obviously has body dysmorphic disorder and will never be happy with her breasts whatever she does. In the end, we find out she went to Brazil and went ahead with the operation.

Big-breasted addict working out
Picture from an ABC News article.

What bugs me about this is that if the show had been what it SHOULD be, she would have been taken to see a psychologist and received counselling for her BDD, and the show would have ended with her either being okay with her current breast size or with her having them reduced if only so that she’s able to tie her own shoelaces again. Don’t get me wrong, if someone wants to have absolutely ginormous boobs, that’s up to them. That’s not the problem. The problem is that this is a woman in both physical and mental pain who needs help. She’s the mother of a young girl and very nearly died of an infection last time. She’s willing to make her child motherless, for goodness sake! But does she get the help she needs from anyone? Nope. The show just wants to show off her cup size.

Very disappointing. 🙁

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