Why Reality TV Is Terrible for Your Mental Health

None of us is perfect; believe me when I say I could preach that message all day, with all the stupid stuff I’ve done in my life.

I’ve lied, cheated and stolen with the best of them. Truth be told, I’m no better than Erika Jayne.

But having recently watched the ABC Original News Story, The Housewife and the Hustler, a scathing documentary about Erika and her famous lawyer- hubby, Tom Girardi, I couldn’t help but wonder how in the world she’d gotten herself into the mess she’s in right now.

Because no matter what happens to her from here on out, to many people she’ll always be known as that kind of woman.

  • The kind of woman who leaves her son halfway across the country to find fame.
  • The kind of woman who marries the rich old guy that frequents the bar.
  • The kind of woman who spends all his money, to the disadvantage of the vulnerable.
  • The kind of woman who brags about her wealth on a reality TV show.
  • The kind of woman who flaunts said wealth in front of cameras.
  • The kind of woman who appears to have little empathy or humiliation and thinks that’s called badassery and confidence.

I’m in no position to judge the content of Erika Jayne’s soul.

That’s way above my pay grade. It’s not even in my department, actually.

Her past and all the issues that led her down this road are between her and God.

But I kinda-sorta understand women like Erika, and I kinda-sorta think most women do.

And I more than kinda-sorta believe this:

Television producers know that we understand women like Erika Jayne and they use that knowledge to their advantage.

Consider this quote from https://www.statista.com/statistics/948542/reality-tv-genre-perspectives/.

According to Julia Stoll,

… Seventy-two percent of surveyed U.S. adults stated that they thought that the reality TV genre was fake. Other terms respondents felt described the genre well included ‘trashy’, ‘meaningless’ and ‘predictable’…

Attitudes to the reality TV genre U.S. 2018

The survey quite clearly states that most of us find reality TV abhorrent. But if that’s the case, why are so many of us watching it?

I have some theories as to why women (and a few men, too) become obsessed with reality TV:

1. We’re jealous.

We believe that the way reality TV stars live should be the way we live, too.

What they have, we should have.

How they dress, we should dress.

Their goals should be our goals.

Doesn’t matter if they live in a totally different environment, work a totally different job, or have a totally different background. We want their lives.

2. We’re unhappy.

We aren’t satisfied in our lives, while they look like they’re living the dream.

They’re jet-setting off to other countries, throwing lavish parties on the back lawn, and finding endless amounts of free time, where they neither work nor tend to children.

We get none of this.

3. We’re bored.

Our normal life doesn’t provide us the drama that we’ve become accustomed to seeing on the screen, so we crave the hit of dopamine we receive from reality TV and all the fighting, gossip and fake romance it entails.

Many times it’s a combination of all of the above, right?

There is some measure of boredom, dissatisfaction and jealousy in our life, and since we often can’t snap our fingers and magically change our life, we escape to a world were we can live through other women.

But here are three minor reasons why escaping to reality TV is incredibly dangerous for your health and well-being:

  • On a physical level, repeatedly watching hour-long television is linked to clotting, heart attack and obesity. Even if you’re active while watching, prolonged screen time causes damage to your eyesight.
  • Mentally, reality TV has been shown to cause greater dislike of our bodies, which is linked to anxiety, depression and eating disorders.
  • Reality TV normalizes some of humanity’s worst behaviors. Getting blackout drunk, sleeping with unknown men and women, and physical violence are all frequent actions seen on reality TV.

No matter what you believe spiritually, that kind of behavior is horrible for the soul.

The biggest reason reality TV is bad for women, however, is because it profits on our human fault of comparing ourselves to others.


The more we watch the supposed “best lives” of other women, the more our lives seem dull, dry and shabby.

This feeling of being less than ultimately leads to a feeling of being “not enough.”

We continue to watch reality TV and stalk social media to figure out how to become just like these “celebrities.”

You could look at a number of women on reality TV and know they probably feel the same way.

This is simply my very humble opinion, but you don’t poke needles in your face, pinch your skin back, drive numerous luxury cars around and carry a dump truck of designer bags in your closet if you feel like you’re good enough deep down to your very soul.

Sorry, you just don’t.

Now before I come off as judgy-mcjudgson, I promise I’ve had all those same fears of being not good enough.

Especially as I’ve aged and am no longer ‘turning heads,’ I’ve battled all those same fears of jealousy, dissatisfaction and boredom.

Many times, the big three, as I like to call them, have led me down a dark road of using food, alcohol and screen time to escape the discomfort of my feelings.

None of us likes to be forced to question if life has turned out the way we wanted, especially when we’re halfway through it and feel stuck.

But since I’ve given up alcohol and started a 40-day sugar fast, I’ve had to sit with some pretty big discomfort.

Much of that has involved feeling bored, unhappy or covetous.

Instead of making me miserable, the soul-sear that comes from discomfort has made me get to know myself more than ever before.

I’ve realized if I don’t hand my feelings to my Creator (many times it’s more like throw them at Him), I will run back to what self-soothes me, which ends up making me feel worse in the long run.

If you are struggling with comparison that you think might be related to reality TV, let me give you some advice:

  • Know your triggers. As I’m tying this, I’m sitting on my deck with my leg propped up due to a broken ankle. Something like this a year ago would have sent me to hell in a handbasket. Now I know what to do.
  • Speaking of knowing what to do, replace those self-soothing escapes that bring more anxiety (food, alcohol, TV) with new self-soothing techniques. Breathing is huge. Walking outside in nature is fabulous. Organizing your space is magically. Prayer is epic.
  • Understand that the new techniques will take time to soothe you. Your brain is a bad mamajama, but unfortunately one of its clutchest bad-boodie behaviors is also one of the worst for you. You see, your brain loves you enough to protect you, and it doesn’t like change. Sometimes it will protect you to your own demise.
  • Sit still, tell yourself what to do, then act. I’ve seen this done lots of ways. Mel Robbins has a five-second action rule. Tony Robbins says just do it period, and make yourself, you stupid loser (just kidding–he doesn’t really say that, but that’s how it sounds in my head). The Bible says to, “run the race” (1 Cor. 9:24). However you choose, you must eventually take action in order to change. Start small and build as you go.
  • Remember always that GRATITUDE, GRATITUDE, GRATITUDE is the key to ending comparison. (Just be prepared: when you first start to practice gratitude, the devil, your ego, the lizard brain–whatever you want to call him/it will try HARD to whoop your tail. Case in point: my 2021.)

As for Erika Jayne and the other housewives, while I want to feel sorry for them, and do to an extent, it’s hard not to see that we reap what we sow.

We’ve seen season upon season of Erika boasting about her health, wealth and happiness, and if she’d gotten it justifiably, well, then, we could have patted her on the back and said good for you.

But as you’ll see when you watch The Housewife and the Hustler, unfortunately, her fortune seems to have come at the expense of some desperately heartbroken and needy people. And that’s pitiful.

Even so, I’m in no position to look down on Erika Jayne.

Whose to say I won’t walk in her exact shoes at some point?

So instead of judging her, I’ll use her story as a lesson in my own life and I’ll try to do better.

That’s really all we can do.

See you soon,




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