While there is no one particular object that defines compulsive collecting, anybody who obsessively acquires items in a way that impedes their welfare can be considered. The collecting is usually done impulsively, often as a coping mechanism or because of an unhealthy sentimental attachment to a specific thing. Compulsive collecting can be a symptom of an underlying mental illness such as depression or OCD.
For some, shopping can be a fun recreational activity, but for compulsive shoppers it can be a dangerously uncontrollable habit. A shopping addiction can lead to credit card debt and other financial trouble. Even those who limit themselves to bargain hunting can run into trouble by impulse-buying things they do not need.
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An obsession for storing food could be a coping mechanism as a result of trauma, or a desire to not be wasteful. However the urge to collect food for survival can extend far beyond what is healthy. Hoarding food, especially when expired, can expose the entire household to physical illness.
An information hoarder will compulsively collect any material where information can be found. This can be in the form of books, pamphlets, old receipts or tax returns, recipes, business cards, magazine tears, or even video tapes. The information will usually be kept without ever being referred to again. Unfortunately, the extreme clutter caused by the large stacks of paper can be a fire hazard.
While information hoarders collect a variety of paper products, mail hoarders specifically collect items they receive in the mail and hold them for future use. Items can include old, outdated bills, coupons past their expiration date, and greeting cards. Often, the clutter caused by the overwhelming amount of mail will cause items to become lost and not usable, and can result in a fire hazard as well. But, that will not stop a mail hoarder from collecting.
Similarly to compulsive collectors, miscellaneous hoarders can amass a wide assortment of objects. There is often not a cohesive collection, but instead a large array of stored objects that are not necessarily needed by the household. Homes can be filled to the rafters with anything from clothes, to postage stamps, to power tools. For miscellaneous hoarders, the act of collecting itself is the focus more than what is being collected.
Syllogomania, more commonly known as trash hoarding, is a condition that causes people to stash and store items that should be discarded. Examples of items kept by trash hoarders would be packing materials, old food containers, broken furniture, or perishable items that have expired. Trash hoarders might be suffering from Diogenes Syndrome or other mental health issues that can result in severe self-neglect.
Recycling hoarders tend to collect trash with good intentions. They will stockpile old paper, empty bottles, and used boxes in order to take them all to a recycling facility to dispose of at once. Unfortunately, the plans always seem to fall through and the recycling trash accumulates. Hoarding recyclables can lead to dangerous levels of clutter, and unsanitary conditions in the home. Over time, the collection of recycling items will grow beyond a single person’s ability to manage, sort, and dispose of everything.
The storage and caching of items can make hiding hoarders a little less obvious to diagnose, however the strong impulse to compulsively collect is still there. This type of hoarder will try to stash their collections out of sight, sometimes out of embarrassment or an obsession with keeping their belongings safe from outsiders. Items will often be hidden in unusual places that do not compliment the function of the item being stored.
Patients diagnosed with Diogenes Syndrome experience severely deteriorated mental health that often causes them to live in isolation. The disorder is characterized by a deteriorated quality of life that is a result of extreme self-neglect. Diogenes Syndrome sufferers often compulsively collect, and show symptoms of syllogomania. Because they cut themselves off from social interaction, it is often difficult for sufferers to get help.