NEW YORK: Fans of the British royals have been awash in glittering titillation over the upcoming nuptials of Prince Harry and American actress Meghan Markle, but counselors warn there is a dark side: extreme and potentially dangerous obsession.
Mental health concerns have been raised by some fans' deep fascination with the UK royal family, which seems to be at an all-time high in the months since Harry and Meghan announced their engagement in December 2017.
With millions drawn into the fairytale love story of a prince and his Hollywood bride, mental health experts warn fans to guard against losing touch with reality.
Sue Varma, a psychiatrist and clinical assistant professor at New York University Langone Medical Center, said fandom can safely intensify into a mild obsession but when it deepens, it can raise red flags.
"I absolutely don't have a problem with somebody having an obsession with the royal family. I don't think that's the problem in and of itself," Varma told Reuters.
"It's the lack of other activities, the lack of flexibility, the fact that you're taking away time from something else. Is this time that you could have been spending with your kids? Is this time you could be talking with your partner?"
Varma said devoting too much time following celebrities can lead to other mental health problems.
"When you start socializing with people that you don't know, when you don't have a reciprocal relationship, this is called parasocial. It's one sided," Varma said.
"This is a problem when you're living in a fantasy world at the expense of creating real relationships," she said.
Varma also warned that celebrity obsessions can lead to body image issues, such as body dysmorphic disorder.
"People become obsessed with celebrities and a lot of times they start having body image issues, they start feeling like they need to get plastic surgery," she said.
(Writing by Barbara Goldberg; Editing by David Gregorio)