Here’s why some people get obsessed with things, according to psychology expert

Rob Waugh
Contributor
Some of us are prone to obsession (Rex)

This month sees otherwise sane people all around the world becoming obsessed with football, to the point where everything else takes a back seat.

But what about people whose obsession never lets go?

From gamers who can’t put down the joypad to collectors whose obsession overspills into hoarding, it can be a sign of deeper problems.

Yahoo News spoke to psychologist Dr Perpetua Neo about what obsession really means, and the real reasons people obsess over sport, gaming or TV.

Dr Neo, a psychologist and executive coach who serves a global clientele, says, ‘It’s about reward, and meaning.

‘When we do something we love, we get a rush of dopamine in our brain synapses.

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‘People who are obsessed get this over and over again. But it’s really about a search for meaning and purpose,’ Dr Neo says.

Obsessive behaviour is often an early warning sign that something else is wrong, Dr Neo says.

Why do people get obsessed with something in the first place?

For those binge-watchers who spend every evening on Netflix, it’s often about control, Dr Neo says.

People who find themselves obsessed with an activity might want to think back to when it started, Dr Neo suggests.

Dr Neo says, ‘It might start at a time when we felt vulnerable. People develop obsessions because they are trying to deal with the pain in their lives.

‘We don’t often correlate this stuff, and think, ‘What was my mental state like when I started doing this?’

Dr Neo says that obsessions can arise out of people trying to ‘live in their heads’ rather than living life.

‘When people have anxiety, people throw themselves into activity, trying to live in the future, or live inside their heads – trying to escape their lives.’

Are certain people prone to becoming obsessed?

Obsession can happen to anyone, says Dr Neo, but there are certain personality types who are more prone to becoming obsessed.

‘For some people, obsession might arise out of an anxious kind of mindset, an obsession with details and control.

In some cases, it can be an obsessive personality disorder, which pervades every level of your functioning.

‘That can apply to executives who want to rise really high – that high level of control, that feeling of meeting all their goals,’ Dr Neo explains.

What are the warning signs?

The main signal a passion is becoming an obsession is simple – everything else in your life starts taking second place.

Dr Neo says, ‘The warning signs are about whether you’re functioning well in your life? Is your career intact? Are you sleeping enough? Are you socialising with your friends?’

‘People who find that they are not sleeping, not showering, and not eating, those are signs that something isn’t right.’