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What Is Bibliomania?

Daniel Liden
Daniel Liden

Bibliomania is a type of obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD, characterized by seeking to acquire, collect, and hoard books in excess of what is reasonable. Individuals with obsessive-compulsive disorders suffer from obsessions, or pervasive and disruptive thoughts, and compulsions, or repetitive behaviors that the afflicted individual must complete to avoid anxiety. Bibliomania is grouped with such disorders because afflicted individuals hoard books as a result of a compulsion, not because of any legitimate interest in the books. They often purchase or otherwise obtain books without any real intention to read them. It is not uncommon for individuals with this compulsion to purchase several copies of the same book.

A reasonable enjoyment of books and the collection of books is called bibliophilia. It is not always easy or even possible to incontrovertibly distinguish bibliophilia from bibliomania, as both may result in similar behaviors. In general, the collecting and hoarding of books is considered to be a compulsive behavior if it causes harm to an individual's social life or health. Additionally, collecting books without the intent to read them, particularly when they have no other inherent value, is suggestive of bibliomania. When the inability to collect more books, whether due to lack of financial means or lack of physical space, causes undue anxiety, it is also likely that a psychological compulsion is present.

People with bibliomania collect and hoard books.
People with bibliomania collect and hoard books.

In some cases, bibliomania may be combined with other book-related psychological disorders. Sometimes, particularly if one lacks the financial means to fuel his compulsion, one may be compelled to steal books, a compulsion referred to as bibliokleptomania. Bibliomania may also be combined with other hoarding compulsions such as vinyl record hoarding or magazine hoarding. People with such compulsions may hoard objects to the point that lack of physical storage in their places of residence becomes a problem.

There are various treatments available for bibliomania and other disorders of compulsion, though they are not consistently successful, and many people with compulsive disorders do not seek help. Various behavioral therapy techniques and medications are commonly used to manage different obsessive compulsive disorders. Behavioral therapy is often based on slowly reducing the extent to which one obeys his compulsions and increasing the extent to which one tolerates the associated anxiety. An individual with bibliomania, for instance, may be called upon to set a weekly limit to the number of books added to his collection. Various forms of medication have been shown to be effective in the treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorders, but the mechanisms by which they reduce anxiety and increase an afflicted individual's social functionality are not well understood.

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    • People with bibliomania collect and hoard books.
      By: Africa Studio
      People with bibliomania collect and hoard books.