Are these really addictions? Why do these people do these types of things?
Like any eating disorder, or any type of obsession, usually the fundamental dynamic here is control. People feel like their lives are out of control, so in order to gain back some measure of control they resort to something they know they can be on top of, and something that they feel like they can do no matter what else is going on in their lives.
In typical eating disorders (I obviously use the term "typical" somewhat loosely here) the control aspect is over their diet. So these people engage in such an extreme control over their diets that they feel like their control, at least in this one slim aspect of their lives, is total.
In the case of someone scarfing down 15 sticks of deodorant per month, or eating cat hair, the same principle applies.
Why do these people feel like their lives are so out of control that they have to resort to these measures?
Usually there has been something taken away from these people that, to them, is significant. In a large number of eating disorder patients, a history of some type of abuse is usually in play.
For these people, help is readily available, but they can be a difficult population to persuade to come to the office. A combination of psychotherapy with a counselor that they can build rapport with and pharmacotherapy can do a lot of good.
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