Why You Shouldn’t Make Fun of People on “My Strange Addiction”
I’ve written before about my social media pet peeves– namely my frustration with people who flippantly use the word addicted to describe something they enjoy (I talk about that in my blog post, ‘You are NOT Addicted!’) Since then, I’ve come across yet another discouraging and frankly unnecessary social media trend surrounding a popular TLC show: My Strange Addiction.
Now, I’ll be honest: I don’t think I’ve ever watched a single full episode of this show. Why? Because I find it derogatory and exploitative. It’s a “freak show” masquerading as educational programming. They get these people to film by convincing them that the show is about promoting awareness and understanding, but, I feel, rather than focusing on actually understanding them, the show emphasizes the “strangeness” and how “bizarre” they are.
The push for ratings by getting people to judge others and alienate them, and I can’t really support that.
On top of that, several of the people featured on the show aren’t necessarily addicted to anything; they’re just living alternative lifestyles. This includes people who cross dress, piercing fanatics, and fetishist who participate in the BDSM lifestyles. So long as there is always consent given by adult parties, who are we to criticize and call them deviants?
Then, of course, are the episodes which seem to draw the most attention and negative feedback online; the ones which feature men and women eating things like rocks, cleaning supplies, plastic bags, toilet paper, or other non-food items. People react with disgust, ire, and repulsion, posting their opinions all over the web for any and everyone to see and laugh.
What they don’t know is these people are sick. They suffer from a eating/mental disorder known as Pica, and there’s nothing funny about it.
The vast majority of people have no clue what Pica is, or even that it exists. It’s not a very well understood disorder, as more extensive medical and psychological research is needed, but what we do know is this:
Pica is defined as the compulsive need or desire to eat things which have no nutritional value, such as the above mentioned items. The disorder can be a symptom of other medical problems, such as iron deficiency anemia, malnutrition (especially in children), or pregnancy. It is also often seen in people with developmental challenges and mental health issues.
Despite these findings, there is no definitive, single cause of Pica. In fact, in some places it’s culturally accepted: pregnant women in certain regions of the world are encouraged to eat certain rocks and clay.
There is no test for Pica. Diagnosis only occurs when one is open and forthright about their eating habits with their doctors. At that point, blood tests may be done to determine if a nutritional deficiency is present, as well as an exam to determine if you are experiencing any negative effects due to Pica. The most common effects include:
- Intestinal blockage
- Damage to the digestive tract
- Infections and parasites
Treatment generally focuses on addressing the effects of Pica first, then including psychological evaluations and treatment as necessary. Unfortunately, due to the stigmas and extreme reactions to this disorder (much like addiction itself), most people suffer in silence until a completely preventable medical emergency results in the revelation of their condition.
For some children, Pica simply goes away with age. For others, it continues to be a crutch for times of emotional distress or stresses. Staying silent and in hiding due to shame leads to nothing but prolonged suffering, self-hate, and the increased risk of medical complications.
So next time you find yourself sneering or giggling at an episode of “My Strange Addiction,” ask yourself if it would be nearly as contemptible or humorous if the show documented people battling cancer or physical limitations.
Don’t laugh at other people’s struggle.
Do you think shows like “My Strange Addiction” are more helpful or harmful to people living with Pica? Let us know what you think in the comments below!
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About the Author
Alexandrea Holder is a South Florida native working toward double Master’s degrees in Psychology and English. She finds the psychological aspects of addiction and mental illness fascinating, as both are prevalent in her family’s history. When not researching and spreading addiction awareness, Alexandrea enjoys sparring, artistic pursuits, and admiring puppies online.