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Health & Balance

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A New Age of Celebrity Worship

Experts help you understand the good, the bad, and the ugly of being the world's biggest fan.

Fans Gone Wild: What Makes Us Tick

While our DNA may set us up for star worship, it's clear not everyone takes it to the extreme. For those that do, Fischoff says the mania is, in a way, a star-studded egg just waiting to hatch.

"A lot of these people who fall deeply into celebrity worship are just abnormal pathology waiting to happen. The fact that it comes out in the form of idolization of a particular celebrity is less important than recognizing the pathology was there all along. And if it was not focused on a celebrity it would be focused on something else, but it would still be there."

Aronowitz agrees, but also says entertainment media is at least partly to blame for creating the "monster" known as the celebrity superfan.

"The whole Hollywood spin machine works together to create images that are impossible for any of us to live up to. They purposefully set us up to admire and even covet something we can never have," says Aronowitz.

Then, she says, when we are completely vulnerable, they sell us the image even harder -- from headlines that titillate us with "celebrity secrets," to the books, diets, cosmetics, foods, jewelry, and clothes that promise we'll be closer to the ones we adore.

"There are fortunes being made by turning fans into victims and all it starts by creating that frenzy known as celebrity worship," says Aronowitz.

Ironically, however, almost as quickly as the media builds our celebrity heroes, they break them via the increasingly growing practice of hanging a star's dirty laundry out for all to see. And it is this practice, says Aronowitz, which can have some very twisted and negative effects on fans.

"Prior to Marilyn Monroe, a star's life was hidden from the public. But now, instead of a glossy ideal, we see celebrity's ugly messes, including their drug and alcohol abuse, which, for many who admire these people, translates into a very dangerous message," says Aronowitz.

Indeed, a study published in the journal Lancet showed that adolescents who viewed smoking in movies were more likely to begin the habit themselves. Others have hinted the same may be true for drug and alcohol use, as well as eating disorders such as anorexia, which can develop when fans try to emulate the unrealistic low weights of their favorite stars.

Moreover, extreme copycat desires of some can even turn deadly, when the one we worship takes -- or loses -- his or her life.

"Some, mostly young fans, can become so overwhelmed by the loss that they themselves begin to believe their life is not worth living," he says.

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