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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. 🙁

Traxy Thornfield

A Swedish introvert in Robin Hood Country (Nottingham, UK) where she lives with a husband and two cats. She's an eager participant in tabletop and play-by-post roleplaying, woodworking, photography and European travel. Will get a novel out one of these days, if she doesn't get too distracted on the way.

5 thoughts on “The problem with My Strange Addiction

  1. There used to be a show on the A&E network called “Intervention” that dealt with addiction and while most of the time they focused on substance abuse they would talk about other things, too. One of their earliest episode featured a girl who cut herself as a coping mechanism to not deal with the sexual abuse she’d suffered as a child. It was heartwrenching to hear her talk about it. I’m of two minds about shows like that because on the one hand they’re showing the mindset of an addict and for me personally that’s a necessary and compassionate thing. The potential for exploitation was huge, though. The show always offered treatment to anyone willing to accept it and while most did some didn’t. Just as a tool to get people thinking about the ways addiction is not healthy beyond the physical aspect it was invaluable.

    1. Definitely. For My Strange Addiction, they don’t really focus on WHY the person has this peculiar addiction, it’s just “this woman snorts baby powder, because LOL”. For the boob lady, you could tell she had BDD, and for the woman who kept chewing on pieces of adhesive tape, there was a brief moment when she went to see the doctor and he asked her when the addiction really set in, and it was after some kind of upset with her sister, barring the woman from seeing her nieces and/or nephews. Her behaviour might have started off by “I want something to chew on, but I’m out of gum” but it escalated after a traumatic event. And the show basically just shrugs at that point and moves on to something else.

  2. i’ve always thought that these reality tv shows were basically geared towards the freakshow aspect than anything else, it’s a bonus if anyone actually gets real help. curiosity and hype sells. the kind of help they offer (i believe) is like handing a cup of milk to a young baby and saying “drink now”. they are however successful in showing us that ‘weird’ is more ‘common’ than not and makes many of us who assumed ourselves different seem very ordinary.

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