Pret-a-Reporter

Celebrity Fatigue Syndrome to Blame for Justin Bieber's Fan Selfie Freakout, Says Top Shrink

Tommaso Boddi/AMA2015/Getty Images for dcp
Justin Bieber taking a selfie with fans at the 2015 American Music Awards.

An open letter from a Hollywood psychiatrist explaining the private hell behind no-photo policies, as recently declared by the pop star and Amy Schumer: "A lot of the celebrities I work with are actually afraid to go outside, they just really want to be secluded and if you're a real fan, that's not what you want."

This week, Justin Bieber announced on his Instagram he would no longer be taking photos — selfies or otherwise — with fans. "It has gotten to the point that people won't even say hi to me or recognize me as a human," the singer wrote in his lengthy post. "I want to be able to keep my sanity. I realize people will be disappointed but I don't owe anybody a picture." He also said he is beginning to "feel like a zoo animal. …And people who say 'but I bought ur album' … got what you paid for AN ALBUM! It doesn't say in fine print whenever you see me you also get a photo."  

 Amy Schumer had a similar reaction when she proclaimed on Instagram in April that she would be declining future selfies due to a specific incident in Greenville, S.C, when she felt harassed by a fan who took her photo even though she was unwilling. She posted his picture to her own account, noting that she asked him to "stop and he said 'no it's America and we paid for you," she wrote. "I will not take picture[s] with people anymore and it's because of this dude in Greenville." She later elaborated that she will still take selfies "with nice people when I choose to if it's a good time for that. But I don't owe anything. So don't take it [personally] if I say no." 

Yet photo-hungry fans aren't going to stop seeking selfies with their favorite celebrities anytime soon, just because a couple of A-listers have put out social-media declarations – not with smartphone cameras as the norm.

Dr. Jeffrey Blume, who works with Academy Award nominees and winners, Grammy-nominated musicians and writers, directors and producers at his private practice in Beverly Hills, weighs in with insights on the accumulated aftereffects of fans approaching celebs, as well as etiquette tips for getting that coveted snap:

Many of the the celebrities I've worked with and currently work with are struggling because taking pictures with fans may start out being an enjoyable and exciting thing as well as a mutual gift. But the constant requests and often entitled demands of some fans over an extended period of time may contribute to Celebrity Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). The celebrity may get overtired and overstimulated. The constant pressure of going out in public and being barraged with fans clamoring for a selfie can be exhausting. Over a longer period of time, more severe symptoms emerge: withdrawal, seclusion, depression, anxiety and stoppage of work altogether. Some creative talent never make it back into their careers and lives in a fully emotional and physically functional way. Smartphones have simply changed everything. That picture doesn't just go to one person — it goes to thousands, potentially millions of people. So an unexpected photo may create a feeling of being overexposed for the celebrity. Imagine that you're on a dinner date or even in a bad mood, and it's suddenly posted on the internet that may travel all over the world. This intrusion impacts them greatly.  

Sometimes celebrities are in a double bind — meaning, they are trapped between two positions: If they agree to take pictures throughout a day, they lack needed privacy, self-care and personal space. On the other hand, if they reject pictures, then fans may get disappointed or become angry, creating a scene and even an uncomfortable and hostile environment. This may create frustration, and then the one time the celebrity may demonstrate anger, it gets captured on video and then the internet. Much like viewing a movie by starting in the middle, the event is taken way out of context and that one second when he or she loses their cool a bit is spread all over the world. Double binds can create depression, and creativity may be shut down as the central nervous system becomes flooded from the constant and sometimes relentless lack of boundaries by fans and the media.

Public events like a football game may be even more difficult. The celebrity may get swarmed by crowds. They often feel claustrophobic and it can be a struggle to do the normal tasks like go to the restroom or wait in line for food because word gets out they are there. I worked with someone who was filmed while in the bathroom, creating a form of trauma. Sometimes anticipatory anxiety over being videoed can be worse than actually being videoed. Not knowing if someone is discreetly using their iPhone can create a version of paranoia and a state of constant vigilance. Another example is going to a restaurant and people approaching their table, mobbing them and causing immense anxiety. This often contributes to avoiding events or simple activities that you and I take for granted. I've had celebrities I've worked with move or put their homes under a different name because it is easy to go on the internet and find out where they live. Some of the people I work with are afraid to go outside into the world. They choose to be secluded and if you're a real fan, that's not what you want for them.

Recently a fan of Amy Schumer said it was part of her job to take pictures with him. I don't believe there is any justification for that. He did not pay for Amy Schumer, that fan enjoys Amy Schumer. Otherwise, it's a form of entitlement.

How a person should approach the celebrity [if they want a picture] is with respect for their creativity in their work. Simply acknowledge that you admire or enjoy their talent. They may surprise you by offering a picture, but let it come from them. It's the memory and experience that may be the most meaningful, not the picture itself. Some fans want that picture for social media: 'Wow, if I can get a picture with Justin Bieber, I can get 600 likes on my Instagram,' but they're not thinking of the impact it'll have on the celebrity themselves. We often hear about the next celebrity who has some kind of break down. They may enter rehab or die. They are not leading the glamorous, perfect life that you think they are.  

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