On the slippery slope to soap addiction

MARIANNE MACDONALD

Media Correspondent

First it was cigarettes and drugs, then the lottery and scratch cards. Now a new addiction has emerged - to soap operas.

A former office clerk has set up what is thought to be the world's first clinic to treat people obsessed with the soaps and has already seen 50 victims and treated 15 of them.

David West, 27, had the idea for the Newcastle-based Jack Duckworth Memorial Clinic after noticing how often his colleagues in the city's social security office talked about the programmes.

For most people it is harmless entertainment, but for a minority it becomes an obsession, according to Mr West. "Reality and fiction become hopelessly confused. The thought of missing an episode is unbearable; actually missing one can result in psychosis."

Mr West says he has seen victims from every walk of life - company directors, housewives, unemployed people, engineers, builders, cleaners. They are of all ages and both men and women. He treats them at their home and encourages them to meet other addicts.

Symptoms of addiction include refusing to miss an episode of a soap opera, watching videoed episodes again and again, becoming obsessed with the plot and feeling betrayed when a character leaves.

"The difficulty is that no one wants to admit they have a problem," Mr West said. "I would like to open up this debate because I see it as a big problem, much bigger than people realise. We spend millions fighting drug and cigarette addiction, but this condition is not recognised."

One of his clients is James McNamara, 30, a west London decorator. He became addicted over the last five years after beginning to watch daytime television while painting.

His obsession was so bad that he was unable to retain a relationship and became edgy if he missed an episode of any of the soaps he watched such as Eastenders, Brookside, Coronation Street and Neighbours.

"I would turn down decorating work if it clashed with a programme. I was like a prisoner. When friends came around I was more interested in the soaps. It was almost like my friends had become like the people on TV and the people on TV had become my friends."

Mr West is campaigning for recognition of soap opera addiction, and wants problem pages in magazines which can advise victims. "Part of my problem is that I have a to charge a pounds 250 one-off fee for treatment," he says. "Many addicts are housewives who can't afford it."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Digital Marketing Executive

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A luxury beauty house with a nu...

Recruitment Genius: Housekeepers - Immediate Start

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This company are currently recruiting new exp...

Recruitment Genius: Head Concierge

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award winning Property Man...

Recruitment Genius: Content, SEO and PPC Executive

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...

Day In a Page

On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral