"These are addictions. These are things on which there's actually a dependence," said Dow. "[Broady] developed a dependence on sleeping with a hair dryer. If you took it away, there are negative symptoms."
Regardless of how they're defined, experts say these behaviors have a special, subconscious meaning to the people who exhibit them.
"They could be due to a past event," said Martin. "Each has its own symbolic value." After several repetitions of the behavior, he said, the body and brain associate the behavior with positive feelings.
Experts say that because obsessive behaviors can be debilitating, they need to be treated, but treatment is difficult.
Most often, therapists use behavioral modification. Patients must refrain from the behavior, which causes anxiety, but if treatment is successful, they learn to relax and the anxiety eases. Relapse is common, though.
"There's no cure. We consider it a chronic condition," said Khemlani. "It really depends on motivation levels, family support, other illneses, their personality, whether they understand theyir symptoms and how much they really believe their fear."
Mental health clinicians say as long as their portrayal isn't exploitative, a show like "My Strange Addiction" can be very beneficial.
"The positive thing is that people might recognize they have a problem," said Martin.
"In the 12-step community, they say you're as sick as your secrets," said Dow. "Not telling anybody can keep you sick."
Thanks to behavior therapy she received, Lori Broady, the self-professed blow dryer addict, says she's now dryer-free. She still says she has a dependence, but instead of a blow dryer, she uses a space heater, which is safer but meets her needs. She says she's thrilled with her progress.
"I wanted to be blow dryer-free by the time the show airs, and I've done that," said Broady.
Brucker has been successful as well. She said she doesn't spend as much time with her alter-ego puppet, May.
"People like April, and they like the puppets as part of April, but not necessarily the puppets with April all the time."
("My Strange Addiction" premieres Wednesday, December 29 at 9 p.m. on TLC.)