Humans are always captivated by things that stand out from what is “normal” from a physical, emotional, mental, or societal aspect, especially if they are impressive or hard to understand. After all, circus performances appeared in 1768, and enjoyed global success for centuries until other issues, events and inventions reduced their popularity.

With that in mind, when TLC (The Learning Channel) announced the premiere of the pilot episode of “My Strange Addiction” in May 2010, the producers expected viewers to tune in, and rightly so. Media reviewers called it ‘the most disgusting reality TV show’ and a ‘fascinating, entertaining freak show’, but although all addictions are unconventional, we wanted to revisit the strangest ones featured in the show. Let us begin.

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Eating her husband’s ashes

Although our claim is unsubstantiated, the case of Casie, who carries and consumes the ashes of her husband Sean, is the most frequently discussed. She was 26 when she appeared in the season two finale, and admitted to carrying his urn everywhere for two months, and talking to it as if he was alive. They married after 10 months of dating, and were in a ‘picture-perfect marriage’ until he suffered a devastating asthma attack.

Casie started her addiction accidentally; while transporting the urn from the cremation facility, a bit of ash fell onto her finger in her car, and she licked it, not wanting to shake it off. Casie said the ashes ‘taste like rotten eggs, sand, and sandpaper, but she grew to love the taste’. She added that she lost 42lbs or 19kgs because she ate only ash, five to six times a day. Luckily, the producers made her check into a 24/7 surveillance facility and stopped her from bringing the ashes to heal her grief and attached issues.

Consuming mattresses

In the third episode of season five, 26-year-old Jennifer confessed to eating mattresses for more than 20 years, nearly since birth. She enjoys the activity, and feels no shame in sneaking into her mother’s room to eat her mattress while she showers. When asked why she didn’t choose the path of lower resistance, she added, ‘The only reason I’m not eating my own mattress is because I ate my mattress already.’

After revealing that she feasted on eight mattresses by that point, at a rate of 0.09 square meters daily, causing conflict with her mom and brother, a doctor warned her of health hazards.

For starters, mattress foam is barely digestible by humans, potentially blocking smaller intestines. While she never had permanent problems, the medical professional informed her that it could prevent food from digesting and block all bowel movements, both highly harmful to the body.

Dating and being intimate with a car

Another regularly mentioned case featured in “My Strange Addiction” is that of Nathaniel from season three, episode one. He’d dated his car Chase for over five years at that point, and even had sexual relations with it. That situation began during his teenage years when he started building cars. However, he never felt that way until Chase, and didn’t understand where the love originated.

The two have common interests, such as a favorite lookout spot for a date and even a favorite song, “Can’t Fight This Feeling” by REO Speedwagon. According to Nathaniel, the car also has a few positions he likes the most during intimate moments. This car lover is even ready to lose his job as a customer service technician, when his clients find out about Chase.

Sniffing and drinking gasoline

Shannon, a 20-year-old from Welland, Ontario, is addicted to drinking gasoline. She craves it, unable to go a day without consuming it. Thus, if she cannot bring a canister, she pours it into plastic bottles or rubs it on her hands and licks her fingers for comfort. To her, it tastes like a mix of sweet and sour, then begins to tingle and burn her throat.

Luckily, her family staged a home intervention and confronted her with the risk of severe injury and death after she started consuming over 12 teaspoons every day. Two extreme hazards are blood cancer and permanent bone marrow destruction.

Similarly, Theresa from Williamsport in Pennsylvania was so addicted to smelling gasoline from a bottle she carried that she could not go over 10 minutes without doing so. She began to sniff gasoline at 13, and maintained the habit for over three decades, causing issues such as holes in memory, lightheadedness, anemia, and stomach pain. Unfortunately, on 9 July 2019, almost eight years after her episode aired, she died at 53 from an unrevealed cause. However, many suspect a link to her long-time gasoline vapor inhalation.

Drinking nail polish

In season three, episode four, 23-year-old Bertha from Florence, Alabama admitted to being a nail polish lover and collector, but not for manicures and pedicures. Instead, she gulped down up to five bottles a day for the last five years, especially during stressful moments such as after relationship struggles and bad days at work.

She says it all started in a salon when she couldn’t stop thinking about the smell, and got curious about its ‘slimy taste’. By the time the show aired, she seemingly had some liver problems. Her body was warning her – nail polish contains toxic ingredients such as toluene, ethyl acetate, butyl acetate, and dibutyl phthalate and should not be inhaled or swallowed.

Body casting with no broken bones

Most people consider wearing a cast on one limb, finger, or toe a massive nuisance, and cannot wait for the injury to heal to take it off. Contrastingly, Kevin, a 27-year-old from a Chicago suburb in Illinois, cannot wait to put one on, despite not breaking any bones. His obsession began at ages six and seven, when he wrapped himself in rolls of toilet paper to mimic a cast.

Then at 12, Kevin broke his arm rollerblading and loved the physical feeling of the cast, calling it ‘comfortable and snug and giving him a physical rush’; additionally, he enjoyed the attention and sympathy he got. That made him eventually spend over $50,000 on casts, scooters, crutches, and wheelchairs. By the time the episode aired, Kevin had put on two full leg and arm casts, two full leg casts with a single arm cast and countless individual ones. He even takes one everywhere he goes, if he feels the urge to put it on.

Chewing and smelling dirty diapers

Viewers at home were shocked when Keyshia, aged 22, confessed her dependence on smelling urine-soaked diapers. A pregnant woman from New York added that they ‘taste like sour candy’ and the more soiled and heavier they are, the more she felt drawn to them.

Her obsession started two years before she appeared on the show, and she keeps them everywhere, including the kitchen, several drawers, her bed, the trunk of her car, and even inside her pocketbook. However, her fiancé started getting tired of her habit, unsure how it would progress after she gave birth. Before that, Keyshia got dirty diapers from friends and strangers.

Sexually attracted to balloons

62-year-old named Julius disclosed his balloon fetish, that started when he was four and his mom brought him one from a hospital. During 50 years since that fateful moment, he’s amassed over 50,000 balloons inside a home he calls a ‘balloon sanctuary’. He feels platonic, romantic, and sexual love, and finds them ‘smooth, soft, delicate, and beautiful’.

Julius compares the heart flutters and arousal to ‘being in heaven and hugging and kissing a woman you love’. He also goes on ‘balloon rescue’ missions to find old, dull, misshapen ones, to blow them up and clean them. His wife thinks his love for balloons is peculiar, but has accepted it. Moreover, a psychologist convinced him not to worry, because he isn’t harming anyone, and it makes him happy.

Eating bricks

Patrice from London began crunching on pieces of bricks in her teens. Curiosity made her start, after randomly remembering her grandma mentioned her dad and aunt crushing bricks and tasting them. Her husband Calvin knows of her habit, and always cringes when he hears her munching on bricks in her bedroom, or taking a detour to find a brick wall. Yet, despite knowing it has no nutritional value and can injure her teeth, mouth, and esophagus, Patrica feels the compulsion to eat more. She estimates she’d eaten half a ton of bricks in 12 years by age 28.

Smelling a baby doll’s head

Compared to many obsessions in the show, Lacey’s is relatively harmless, and in a way cute. However, it’s undoubtedly strange that the 24-year-old cannot stop rubbing and smelling the head of her doll, Susie Q, throughout the day. Susie Q was complete when Lacey started bringing it with her for comfort as a kid.

When the episode aired, the dark-skinned doll had no body, eyes, hair, or eyelashes and became smooth over two decades of near-constant body contact. Her mom and cousins found her habit creepy, and thought something was wrong with her. However, Lacey is addicted to the smell she describes as ‘close to marshmallows’, and cannot leave her home without it.

Gulping paint

Heather, 43, appeared on the show during the second episode of season five and disclosed her dangerous compulsion to down at least one paint marker a day. This single mother fears her addiction will negatively impact her two sons, and although she never took a swig with them present, she says they spotted the paint on her lips, and smelled it on her breath.

So Heather is looking for a way to stop, after consuming almost three gallons or over 11 liters of paint in the last three years. Sadly, she finds stopping difficult, because the paint tastes ‘like a thicker version of warm milk that feels nice and warm going down your throat before getting a chemical taste’, that she finds perfect. Luckily, her kids and best friend Stephanie supported her, and the doctor warned her about the Xylene ingredient. Consequently, Heather became paint-free after filming the episode.

Snorting baby powder

Although indisputably dangerous to the user and those nearby, hearing about someone snorting white powder does not make a splash nowadays. What does, is when someone is addicted to shooting white baby powder up their nose, like the 28-year-old Jaye from Houston, Texas. Her habit started when she was 12 and progressed to inhaling the substance at least 10 times a day.

Jaye stated it began harmlessly; she liked the smell and would rub it on her body to prevent chafing. However, over time she kept putting the powder closer to her nose as the smell lost intensity. Jaye estimates the daily consumption to be five ounces or 141.5 grams. When she put things on paper, she discovered that she’d inhaled over 51kgs of baby powder in the last 16 years. Additionally, the woman ignored the known risk of respiratory problems and lung cancer from the main ingredient, talcum powder. Because a CT scan showed no damage, she felt no drive to stop her daily habit.

Dating inflatable animals

Mark, who was 20 when he appeared in season four’s second episode, claims to be in a relationship with 15 inflatable toy pool animals. Six years before his on-screen appearance, he started dating Lila, a dragon he sleeps with every night and would marry. However, the Redlands, California native also eats and showers with other inflatables, and even kisses, hugs, and talks to them, because they are ‘soft and cuddly’.

According to him, they make him feel affection he never received from his mom. After they noticed his obsession, cousin Matt and friend Josh suggested he visit a psychologist, which he did. Unfortunately, while he began interacting with humans more, Mark still spends considerable time with his pool toys.

Gnawing on car tire shavings

Allison, a 19-year-old season four TV personality, begrudgingly confessed her habit of nibbling and munching on car tire shaving since 2007. She estimates her monthly intake of rubber reaches 14lbs, or a bit over 6kgs. She discovered it was hard to contain the obsession because ‘they taste chemical-y, like a shock to your taste buds’. Thus, Allison thinks she eats roughly two feet of tires a day, and has ingested over 50 tires in her lifetime. Interestingly, she started doing this to save money, as she could get shavings for free. Sadly, despite health risks, Allison only slightly reduced the amount she ate by the end of the episode.

Snacking on drywall

In a 17 July 2011 episode of “My Strange Addiction”, Nicole admitted to consuming drywall for over seven years. She said that she loves the taste, smell, and texture, and eats roughly three square feet or about 0.28 square meters of drywall weekly, adding up to roughly 100 square meters throughout her addiction. Consequently, the walls of her house are damaged, and her family fears for the structural integrity and her mental and physical health.

Nicole stated that the obsession began shortly after her mom died, and revealed she was unsure if she could quit. However, she knew she had to, for the son she single-handedly raised. Another thing that worried her was the drive to eat the walls of her grandmother’s house, who was unaware of her cravings. Nicole managed to stop after learning about toxic, sharp, and cancerous compounds such as glass, boric acid, silica dust, and mercury.

Sleeping with a hair dryer on

Although not as unusual as the previous ones, the fetish of Lori Broady, who was 31 years old on 29 December 2010 when the first episode aired, is still concerning and unquestionably dangerous. First, it goes against the recipe for falling asleep and sleeping soundly, a dark noise-free environment. She claims that the addiction began when she was eight years old, and she now spends up to eight hours a night next to a blow dryer, to stay asleep.

Although the sound and heat comfort her, Lori admits to having several hazardous events. One night, she ‘was attacked by the blow dryer’, resulting in several heat blisters. Another scary event happened when the blow dryer fell to the carpet at an angle that trapped heat, burning a hole in it; thankfully, it didn’t start a fire. Another troubling fact is that Lori’s daughter, who was only three years old in the show, slowly developed the same addiction. That was a wake-up call for the mom, and one of the reasons she signed up for help.

Fortunately, asking for help was the right step; with the help of Dr. Mike Dow, a recovery expert, she managed to beat the habit in 2011. She admitted thinking it was not a big deal until she heard about a community of blow-dryer users. Additionally, the day her episode aired, a Virginia father and daughter died in a house fire started by improper blow dryer use. That made her appreciate her incredible luck over more than two decades.

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