When you think of reality television networks, chances are that TLC quickly comes to mind, with shows like "90 Day Fiancé," "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo," and "Dr. Pimple Popper," just to name a few. Another TLC original you may be familiar with is "My Strange Addiction," a show featuring people with bizarre, sometimes compulsive behaviors. The show premiered in 2010 and graced television screens with new episodes until 2015, as noted by IMDb. But if there’s one thing we know about TLC shows, it’s that they aren’t always everything they’re made out to be.
When it comes to "My Strange Addiction" in particular, everything from the way people are cast on the show to the true nature of the "addictions" the show portrays — and pretty much everything in between — is more than a little, well, strange. Let’s just say there’s a lot you don’t know about the show that gave new meaning to the term Human Ken Doll. This is the truth about "My Strange Addiction."
‘My Strange Addiction’ portrays mental illnesses as addiction
The American Society of Addiction Medicine defines addiction as "a treatable, chronic medical disease involving complex interactions among brain circuits, genetics, the environment, and an individual’s life experiences." And while the behaviors featured on "My Strange Addiction" might seem to fall under this definition at first glance, many of them are better characterized as mental illnesses. For instance, those on the program who eat weird objects — like the woman who eats mattresses or the one who eats sand – may actually be living with pica, an eating disorder where people eat things that aren’t food.
Several experts have weighed in on "My Strange Addiction" to suggest that other behaviors, such as sleeping with a hair dryer turned on next to your bed, actually fall under the category of obsessions as opposed to addictions. Dr. Peter Martin, professor of psychiatry and pharmacology at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, spoke to ABC News about the show and noted, "These are more obsessions rather than an addiction," adding, "It’s something that they do because they’re worried that something terrible may happen." While it may seem at first like the distinction doesn’t matter, experts at Verywell Mind explained that not only are they different disorders, they also require different treatments.
One ‘My Strange Addiction’ star found fame on YouTube
Not everyone who’s appeared on "My Strange Addiction" did so to access treatment for their behaviors. In some cases, going on the show seems like another way to find fame. Take Trisha Paytas, for example. You may recognize her as the controversial YouTube personality and singer with over 6 million subscribers across her two channels that Vulture asserts "has spent the last decade and a half trying on different identities to see which ones will make her the most famous." It comes as little surprise, then, that Paytas appeared on "My Strange Addiction" for her addiction to tanning, though she herself noted, "I mean, I could stop tanning, I just don’t want to stop."
While there’s little denying that Paytas was over-tanning when she went on "My Strange Addiction," it’s notable that it appears she was trying to catch her big break around the same time. She appeared on all sorts of television shows ranging from "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" and "America’s Got Talent" to "Dr. Phil" and "Modern Family." We’re not suggesting that Paytas started tanning compulsively just to get on "My Strange Addiction," but we can’t help but notice that the appearances she made around the same time don’t show her with quite the same orange glow.
‘My Strange Addiction’ is more than a little controversial
When "My Strange Addiction" first premiered, entertainment writers weren’t sure what to make of it, or its quick success. For one, Mandi Bierly for Entertainment Weekly ventured the guess, "That’s what’s interesting about this show, right? Discovering the root of the addiction." On the other hand, the Us Weekly staff criticized "My Strange Addiction" early on for spending too much time making a sideshow out of people’s behaviors and too little time helping them get treatment. "The afflictions are fascinating, but too much time is spent gawking at their odd behavior as opposed to treating it," they asserted. "Only in the final moments do therapists pay a visit, and they oversimplify things by suggesting exercise and journaling!"
Additionally, Michael Abernethy at Pop Matters reached a similar conclusion, writing that the premiere left viewers frustrated at what they were seeing. "While ‘My Strange Addiction’ provides details of the addictive behaviors, it does little to present their psychological make-ups, their contexts or their possible treatments," he explained. "More input from [the resident psychological expert] might help us understand what we’re watching, and not just ogle bizarre spectacles."
The behaviors featured on ‘My Strange Addiction’ are often hazardous
Regardless of whether the behaviors on "My Strange Addiction" truly are addictions, there’s no denying that they are often unsafe. For example, a man named Josh ate both glass and live ammunition on "My Strange Addiction" despite the fact that his fiancée is scared about his health. Josh even admits, "I guess more than anything, I’m really addicted to the attention," though he also notes that swallowing bullets is more of a rush than eating glass because there’s more risk involved, due to the potential for heavy metal poisoning.
Theresa, on the other hand, was featured on "My Strange Addiction" for her addiction to smelling gasoline. She and her family reported that she sniffs gasoline every 10 minutes and that she’s experienced short-term memory loss, beginning all the way back in 1995, along with severe stomach problems as a result. Theresa was warned by neurologist Jeffrey Gould on the show that she’s playing Russian Roulette every time she takes a sniff of gasoline. But like the other behaviors featured on "My Strange Addiction," there’s no closure for viewers about whether either Josh or Theresa ever stopped their behaviors.
Some of the so-called addictions on ‘My Strange Addiction’ are simply lifestyle choices
While there’s no denying that eating glass or sniffing gasoline might pose a danger to one’s health, some behaviors featured on "My Strange Addiction" seem relatively harmless. Take Divya, a fashion designer who was featured on "My Strange Addiction" for being "addicted to taxidermy." Though the show tried its best to spin Divya’s taxidermy hobby into something weird and bizarre, she’s since turned it into a career! She debuted taxidermy shoes in 2013 and is now a famous taxidermist with celebrity clients in New York City.
While not all of the hobbies featured on "My Strange Addiction" launch careers like Divya’s, many are still pretty harmless. In an episode purportedly about living dolls, some of the people featured were less interested in being living dolls and more interested in Lolita, a fashion subculture with a focus on cuteness that started in Japan. When the episode aired, other people in the Lolita subculture were angry and frustrated with the portrayal. Indeed, how can a certain fashion style be an addiction, and how strange can it be when information about it is readily available along with places to purchase it?
Are ‘My Strange Addiction’ fans sometimes duped?
While many people may have gotten the wrong idea from the episode on living dolls that also featured Lolita fashion, this isn’t the only time that "My Strange Addiction" has told only part of the story. Namely, a woman named Carrie was featured in the 2012 season finale of "My Strange Addiction" for her "addiction" to drinking her own urine. However, Carrie was in fact engaging in urine therapy to treat her cancer. While urine therapy isn’t a medically proven therapy, it also isn’t anything new.
Carrie also revealed that she was portrayed quite differently on "My Strange Addiction" than how she is in reality. Carrie read a letter on YouTube that she wrote to the producers of the show, explaining that she wasn’t interested in a follow-up with TLC due to the misleading nature of the program. "The show made it look like I drink my pee all day long, in everything I do, which makes sense with the theme of ‘My Strange Addiction,’" she revealed. Carrie also added that one of the producers told her that "viewers needed more than what we could come up with if we limited my story to the reality … in the bathroom."
Those featured on ‘My Strange Addiction’ have reported being duped as well
It isn’t just viewers who reportedly sometimes feel duped by "My Strange Addiction," either. When Lolita YouTuber Lor reacted to the "My Strange Addiction" episode about living dolls, she revealed (and provided emails to prove) that she’d been approached about being in the episode, but was never told it was for "My Strange Addiction." This also raised speculation among other Lolitas on Reddit about whether those who were featured in the show were similarly duped.
This experience was shared by a woman named Lauren, who was featured on "My Strange Addiction" as a furry. In a Reddit AMA, Lauren shared that she was told that it was a show about people’s strange hobbies, and that they wanted to feature her making a fur suit. "Furries have always had a bad rap with the media, so I thought that this could be a way to shed a different light on it," she revealed. "Of course once I was knee-deep, it all evolved into something different, and I was ashamed with the way they portrayed me." She also shared, "It is a simple hobby, and not even my biggest hobby, either."
People who are featured on ‘My Strange Addiction’ are reportedly paid, but there’s a cost
While some of the people featured on "My Strange Addiction" have said they weren’t paid for their appearances, a woman named Lauren said otherwise during her Reddit AMA on the subject. She shared that she was in fact paid and called the amount "considerable" but "not a large amount" — whatever that means. But arguably more important than the amount that Lauren was paid was what it actually cost her. As she tells it, that payment came at the price of signing a contract "basically stating that they have the right to alter/use/sell my footage in any which way they please, just put in a ‘nicer’ way."
That stipulation ended up being a bigger issue than Lauren had realized. "They portrayed me as a jobless, education-less shut-in who uses a mask to hide behind the fact that I cannot accept the death of my father as a reality," she wrote. "I was attending school during the time of filming, and while I am a bit of an introvert at times, I am in no way close to what they had shown."
‘My Strange Addiction’ has been accused of being entirely scripted
Not only are some of the people featured on "My Strange Addiction" reportedly duped into believing the show is about something else entirely, Lauren also revealed in her Reddit AMA that the whole thing was scripted. That’s right, things weren’t just tweaked in editing, they were scripted from start to finish. "At no point did I ever do anything I would normally do," Lauren shared. "Everything was either scripted, guided, or I was plopped into a situation that I did not want to be in."
In fact, Lauren also revealed that she only wears the fur suit one weekend a year for an annual convention, despite the fact that she was portrayed in the show as not being able to function without it. "I have a completely normal life outside of this," she continued. "I have a job, a loving family, a boyfriend, a group of great friends and I am a musician and firearm freak more than I am a furry. It is merely a small hobby of mine, but they took what information I gave and ran with it."
Some people featured on ‘My Strange Addiction’ are reportedly harassed and bullied afterward
After Lauren’s appearance on "My Strange Addiction" she reportedly had to put up with a lot more than just the frustration of how she was portrayed. She revealed on the Reddit AMA that she started being harassed as well. "A few people found my full name, my address, phone number, what school I went to and my major, and my boyfriend’s information," she explained. "I received quite a few empty death threats from that." Luckily, Lauren said the harassment stopped after about two months.
But Lauren isn’t the only "My Strange Addiction" alum to have suffered harassment. A woman named Ayanna Williams was featured on "My Strange Addiction" not for her record-breaking fingernails, but for her "extreme toenails." After the show, Williams started a YouTube page sharing videos of her toenails and fingernails, and in 2017 she officially became the world record holder for the longest fingernails on a pair of hands. But all that spotlight also led to some bullying. "On social media I’m cyber-bullied — and not only me, but also others like me," Williams told Houstonia magazine. "It’s serious — the way people talk about me, if I was weak, I’d dig a hole and jump in it."
Williams had her nails cut short in April of 2021, according to Guinness World Records.