Collecting: Is it becoming a compulsion?

Posted on February 14, 2015

Photo: flickr

Is collecting things harmless or could it take a turn for worse?

Whether it’s old coins, stamps, trading cards, or Beanie Babies, many of us have items that we find particularly enticing, and that we’re strangely compelled to collect. Have you heard of women fetishes beautiful stationery?

We have heard of hoarders: those who impulsively and compulsively keeps a significant amount of possessions, animals, rubbish and so on in their homes, which are negatively impacting on their health and happiness. This leans towards to the darker side of collecting. .

Freud proposes that collecting is a remnant from our potty training days. The theory goes something like this: as children, ownership is extremely important to us. We don’t like sharing our toys or our juice boxes. So when we become aware of our more private bodily functions — namely, the evacuation of liquid waste — we become distressed because we have lost ownership of something that was once ours.

It probably sounds strange, this notion that potty training and collecting are linked with the very human tendency to value control and ownership, but the scientific community has not yet roundly dismissed Freud’s theory.

What's the difference between hoarding and collecting?

Collectors have reasons for what they do. These can be logical, practical, or sentimental reasons, but reasons nonetheless. The habits of collectors don’t typically interfere with their lives in a negative way. Collecting is a hobby — not a destructive compulsion.

In recent years, APA has settled on a DSM-5 definition for hoarding as a disorder. According to the DSM-5, the qualifications for hoarding disorder include:

Habits that result in the impairment of normal social or occupational functions.
An absence of other disorders (depression, OCD) that could result in compulsive behaviors.

Nobody would call out a lovingly curated art museum as evidence of a mental disorder; rather, it serves as a public collection of items from our shared past — an exercise in both preservation and mindfulness.

So, as rich as Freud’s bathroom imagery might be, it’s surely not the one-size-fits all explanation we might want for categorizing an important human behavior. But more than that, we’re reminded that the life of the mind is revealed only one tantalizingly small detail at a time.

Category(s):Obsessions & Compulsions (OCD)

Source material from BrainBlogger