Therapy on tap

Madi Fiorenza always knows where her water bottle is.

The 19-year-old university student from Perth says she first learnt the term emotional support water bottle from a co-worker but then she began to see people talk about it on social media.

“That’s the first time I heard about it, but then I started to see it on TikTok.”

Madi Fiorenza quickly became attached to her water bottle. Photo: Ruby Devlin.

For those who don’t spend time on TikTok, an emotional support water bottle is a water bottle that someone has by their side 24/7.

Fiorenza says even though she’s only had her bottle for a few months, the bond is already strong.

“The attachment started off quite early but it definitely grew over time. To the point where now I feel like I have to take it with me everywhere I go,” she says.

She says she once went back to work after it had closed because she had left her water bottle behind.

“I finished my shift at like 10, got home and got into bed and realised I left my water bottle at work. So I went all the way back, opened up the shop to get my water bottle,” she says.

Emotional support water bottles started out as a joke on social media but quickly turned into an offline phenomenon.

TikTok’s with the hashtag ‘emotional support water bottle’ have a combined view count of more than 66 million.

Jessica Grisham is a hoarding disorder expert from the University of New South Wales.

She says it’s natural to be emotionally connected to objects.

“It’s definitely a normal part of the human experience,” she says.

“We all have items in our home and in our lives that we are attached to.”

Keong Yap is a an expert on object attachment.

He says emotional support water bottles provide comfort without drawing too much attention to the individual. 

“Nobody’s going to look at you it’s not like a teddy bear. It’s not weird at all it’s very acceptable,” he says.

Emotional support water bottles are known for there bright colours. Photo: Ruby Devlin.

Dr Yap says issues could arise if a person is suddenly without their bottle.

“The unpleasantness is when they lose their water bottle,” he says.

He says the popularity of emotional support water bottles is part of the reason why people are attached to them.

“Perhaps with articles [like this one] it becomes uncool to have a water bottle in the future. You know people look at you in the future and go, ‘oh, that’s uncool’ and then it will become something else,” he says.

“Take for example in the past, cigarettes were the way in which people coped with stress. It’s very oral and you know they’re smoking and it was the norm … we’ve moved away from that.”

The numbers indicate search interest compared to the term’s maximum search interest in a particular area and place. Graph: Ruby Devlin.

Data from Google Trends indicates a massive spike in popularity of the term ’emotional support water bottle’.

Psychologist and social media expert Ash King says the increase in interest is all thanks to TikTok.

“It’s definitely on brand with the way people are responding to strategies such as emotional support online and in sort of bite-size chunks via TikTok and social media,” she says.

Zoe Kelly, 20, takes her water bottle with her everywhere. Photo: Ruby Devlin.

University student Zoe Kelly has had her one litre Frank Green bottle for almost a year.

She says she’s not surprised about the popularity of emotional support water bottles as all of her friends own at least one. 

“Every single one of us has an emotional support water bottle that comes everywhere. Even when we hang out in groups, like no matter what we’re doing, everyone has their emotional support water bottle,” she says.

Fiorenza says she doesn’t think the trend is as harmful or toxic as other trends created on social media.

 “As far as trends go I’d say this is one of the best ones to come around,” she says.

Fiorenza says her ADHD often causes her to fidget with her water bottle. Photo: Ruby Devlin.

She says having her emotional support water bottle by her side makes her feel more comfortable with tackling whatever is ahead.

“My day will be a lot better if I have this water bottle with me whether that be for the emotional side of it or practicality.”