Royal wedding obsession: Fun can deepen to mental health problem

Royal wedding obsession: Fun can deepen to mental health problem
Britain's Prince Harry and his fiancée US actress Meghan Markle watch a dance performance by Jukebox Collective during a visit at Cardiff Castle in Cardiff, south Wales on January 18.
PHOTO: AFP

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?"

Britain's Prince Harry to marry Meghan Markle

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    Britain's Prince Harry is to marry his US actress girlfriend Meghan Markle early next year it was announced Monday, with the Queen leading a chorus of approval and best wishes for the couple who got engaged in secret earlier this month.

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    "His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales is delighted to announce the engagement of Prince Harry to Ms Meghan Markle. The wedding will take place in Spring 2018," Clarence House, Prince Charles's office, said a statement.

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    The couple's engagement was sealed in London and the prince then informed his grandmother Queen Elizabeth II, close members of the royal family and had also sought the blessing of Markle's parents.

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    Britain's Prince Harry and his soon-to-be wife, American actress Meghan Markle.

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    The couple will live at Nottingham Cottage in London's Kensington Palace, where his brother William and his pregnant wife Kate live with their two children.

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    Harry's 36-year-old bride-to-be is best known for her role as a lawyer in the hit television show "Suits".

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    Reports that Markle, who is expected to become a duchess, was moving her two dogs -- Guy and Bogart -- to London further fuelled rumours of the first royal wedding since William and Kate in 2011.

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    The actress's parents Thomas Markle and Doria Ragland said in a statement they were "incredibly happy" and wished the couple "a lifetime of happiness."

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    "Our daughter has always been a kind and loving person," they said. "To see her union with Harry, who shares the same qualities, is a source of great joy for us as parents."

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    Prince Harry revealed Monday that he proposed to US actress Meghan Markle over roast chicken, and said she would be "unbelievably good" at her new royal role despite its pressures.

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    The couple said they were enjoying "a cosy night" at home in his cottage in the grounds of Kensington Palace earlier this month - "trying to roast a chicken" - when he got down on one knee.

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    "She didn't even let me finish, she said, 'can I say yes? can I say yes?' and then there were hugs," Harry said in the couple's first interview since the announcement of their engagement earlier Monday.

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    They revealed they knew little about each other when they were set up on a "blind date" by a mutual friend.

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    Harry said he had never heard of Markle, while the actress added she was largely ignorant about the British royal family and just asked of their friend, "is he nice?" The date went so well they immediately met up again before going camping together for five days in Botswana just a few weeks later.

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    "Then we were really by ourselves, which was crucial to me to make sure we had a chance to get to know each other," Prince Harry said.

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    They spent the first few months after that staying in, cooking dinner and watching television to avoid any public attention.

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    Bookmakers have already started taking wedding related bets, with Westminster Abbey a firm favourite to host the event and fashion label Alexander McQueen favourite to design the dress.

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.

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