Friday, January 7, 2011

A POLL! Reality Television and Mental Illness

Over the last few years, I've noticed a subgenre of reality television shows: several of them feature individuals diagnosed with specific mental illnesses. Obsessed on A&E features individuals with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD):


Hoarders on A&E and Hoarding: Buried Alive on TLC both feature individuals who have what might be considered a subtype or symptom of OCD or Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder.


Next week, I'll let you know what I think of these shows. But for this week:



Do you watch these shows? What do you think of the people who decide to be featured, and what do you think of the therapists? Which shows do you think are the best? Are there any you hate?:

12 comments:

  1. Well, I think the therapists for the obession show are annoying. The ones for the hoarder show are better and they truly try to help and have some great advice/coping mechanisms/and get the family involved. HOWEVER, they do have follow up shows and without follow up care, almost everyone goes back to hoarding. It's sad.

    I like all the shows (and the new one about the obsessions like eating toilet paper, laundry soap, sleeping with a hairdryer), mainly because I've always felt a little of kilter with how I live and they make me feel a little more normal. ;-)

    ~JD

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  2. I've only seen one or two of them because I find them really upsetting. I'm not sure why these people (or their should know better families) allow the exploitation. Not only is their illness made into entertainment, I'm sure they are edited and such to portray/highlight what the show wishes. This is a really intersting question and one not many people probably think about. I also wonder (and I don't mean to offend anyone who likes these shows), why this is entertaining to people. Does it make them feel better? Do they connect on some level? Do they just like the drama? Does is just fill the time? I never really understood reality tv in general, but these in particular are filled with a certain heartbreak, I think.

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  3. Great topic. I don't have a problem as long as the intent is helpful. Sadly, most of those shows are for propaganda. I even feel that the folks featured are being used. Maybe not always, but it just feels that way.

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  4. I am obsessed with Hoarders. Okay, maybe obsessed is a little strong of a word...but I definitely find it fascinating.

    I'm fairly certain my mom is a boarderline hoarder. She hasn't crossed the line into the alarming levels like those featured on the show. But she's definitely got a back storage room that's surpassed the "pack rat" label. I used to get irritated that she couldn't just throw away something from 1992 she obviously doesn't need anymore. Now, I realize it takes a different approach to getting that thought through to her.

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  5. Awesome post. I have a B.A. in Psychology, and it truly baffles me how TV execs portray "mental illnesses". Sometimes I think they don't really care about trying to help anyone--the more drama they can cause, the better. It's sad to see people fascinated by how others hurt, but don't do anything to ease the pain.

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  6. I've only ever seen Hoarders, and I find it riveting, so I checked the train-wreck option. These people aren't being forced to go on television (it's not like they're secretly video taped and exploited). Now I'm feeling very alone since I'm the only one who checked it...

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  7. I don't watch "reality" tv. I have better things to do. I prefer to watch (if I have time) fiction TV. Much more entertaining, and at least I'm not left wondering if it's real or not.

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  8. I think most reality television is exploitative in some way -- some contestants are more aware of it than others and are willing to buy into it for the money/attention. In other words the tradeoff is worth it. But with the ones focusing on mental illness, I think it goes too far. I'm sure the shows have all the right paperwork and agreements in place, but... As someone with an aunt whose a borderline hoarder and all the emotional issues to go with it, I find such shows upsetting not fascinating and certainly not entertaining. They only underscore the hopelessness of such situations and the almost certain relapse after the cameras shut off and well-meaning or simply fed up family members go on their ways. Interested to see what you think...

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  9. Just found you at Justine's blog. Good luck on submissions! And sounds like an interesting topic, though I've never seen one of these shows.

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  10. I watch Hoarders pretty regularly...Haven't been able to get into the others. BUT, I always have the urge to clean something when I watch Hoarders.

    Nice post!

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  11. I haven't watched either of these shows, but I wonder if watching them gives people comfort that they aren't in quite as bad shape and the people showcased on the programs or if perhaps the viewers are watching for an answer for themselves or for a solution for someone they love. I do watch Biggest Loser. I watch because I want the people to succeed and because I want to be healthier. I listen to and watch what they are doing in the gym and in the kitchen. Maybe it's the same for the people who are watching those two shows...?

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  12. I don't watch a whole lot of TV, but I see these commercials and hope that people might learn from them and get help themselves if needed.
    Hey, I'm psyched to have you as part of our Sisterhood of the Traveling Blog, btw!

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