Is Collecting a Mental Illness?

Collecting items such as stamps, books, or thimbles from all over the world can be a fun hobby and often has sentimental value. As long as this collecting is done in a controlled manner, it’s not considered a mental illness. However, the accumulating of piles of items that prevent you from sleeping, cooking, eating, and using the toilet is when it becomes a serious issue. According to Francisca Lopez Torrecillas, a researcher at the University of Granada, these attitudes such as perfectionism and extreme order are very common in people who like to collect articles, and they’re closely linked with psychological disorders such as Diogenes syndrome and shopping addiction.

It’s important to differentiate between normal collecting behavior and hoarding disorder, as this is an ongoing issue that can be life threatening in some cases. Hoarding disorder is defined as a persistent difficulty letting go of or throwing out items, regardless of their value, and leads to an accumulation of possessions, rubbish and clutter that causes distress and impairs daily functioning.

While in the past, hoarding was included as a subtype of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), more research has shown that it’s an independent condition with unique features. As a result, it was included in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as Hoarding Disorder. However, it remains to be seen whether the proposed diagnostic criteria will be able to effectively distinguish pathological hoarding from normative collecting behaviors. The purpose of this article is to explore the relationship between these two behaviors, as well as their implications for clinical practice and future research.