When I was taking psychology 101 in university I used to joke that they should use me as a guest subject. Perhaps it’s my experience with a variety of disorders that draws me to one of my guilty pleasures: TLC reality TV. I “enjoy” watching shows like Extreme Cheapskates, Extreme Couponing, My Strange Addiction, My Crazy Obsession and Hoarding: Buried Alive.
When I watch these shows I switch back and forth between being sympathetic and hopeful to being disgusted and sad. I understand why these shows gather a following- if they have enough shock value to surprise me, I can’t imagine what someone who doesn’t understand anxiety disorders or mental illness is thinking. From a business perspective these shows are gold. They don’t cost a lot of produce and they gain a following easily. But, this got me thinking about the moral side of it. Half of me thinks these shows are good for mental illness, while the other half thinks they are hitting the ethical rock bottom.