In this blog, we will discuss the historical background of bibliomania.
We will discuss whether or not it is an individually recognized mental disorder, how it hinders the lives of those it affects, and to what extent.
If it’s treatable or not, and if so, how to diagnose and cope with it.
We will also discuss the causes and symptoms of bibliomania and discuss some notable personalities who have suffered from this mental disorder.
Bibliomania is the enthusiasm for collecting and enjoying books.
Not to be confused with bibliophilia, which is a love for collecting and reading books and not a mental illness, it involves collecting books that have no use or any intrinsic value to the person who is collecting them.
Some of the frequent symptoms include the purchase of multiple copies of the same book and the hoarding of books beyond capacity.
Bibliomania is also considered to be a symptom of obsessive-compulsive disorder, as the bibliomaniacs collect books to the point where social relations or their health is damaged.
In simple words, we can say that bibliomania is the unhealthy obsession of collecting books.
Historical Background of Bibliomania
One of the first known cases of bibliomania was in the 1800s when the librarian, Dr. AloisPichler, was discovered to be in possession of more than 450,000 books of various genres and subjects from and of many fields and professions.
The man in question was the librarian of the Imperial Library Of Russia.
Seeing his obsession, it was believed that he was struck with a mental illness that manifested itself as a defense mechanism to some past trauma and took off as a disabling which could no longer be disguised as mere passion.
In that era, the elite class within Europe was inflicted with a deep maddening obsession to collect volumes of work, which held little to no value to the owner per se.
All the intellectuals and all of the wealthy hoarded books and did anything they could to be in possession of it.
It was a form of obsessive-compulsive behavior.
Bibliomania cannot be considered a separate, individual mental disorder.
In fact, it is a form of Obsessive-Compulsive-Personality disorder, and such disorders result from psychological and or emotional trauma, which has resulted in the past.
Normally the obsession sets in during the early years of a person’s life but it ends up becoming troublesome, usually, only after a person reaches or crosses the age of 40 years.
Associated Symptoms of Bibliomania
The main and most immediately recognizable symptom of bibliomania is it’s victims’ obsessive desire to collect and hoard books, which may or may not hold any personal value to the person collecting them.
The patient will adhere to this behavior regardless of the book’s genre, subject, appearance and or purpose.
There are a range of other symptoms also such as,
- They tend to collect books even if they already hold a similar copy of the book in their possession. The desire to collect books, if not fulfilled, can lead to anxiety and or Depression.
- They will value caring for and providing space for their books over maintaining the appearance of their living space. Patients tend to become unhygienic and disorganized with living spaces laden with books.
- They tend to not be very neat with the arrangement of their books rather doing their best to place, store, or horde books in every space, large or small, available. They often take pride in the size of their collection and associate themselves with it.
- Patients will become too obsessed with the thought and idea of collecting the books such that they will begin to lose interest in actually reading the books collected.
- The patient will be stuck in a cycle wherein their obsession will socially alienate them. The isolation, in turn, leads to depression, and the void created is thus, in turn, filled by fueling the fire to their bibliomania.
How To Diagnose Bibliomania?
Bibliomania is not by itself, an independent illness. It is only a form of Obsessive-Compulsive-Disorder.
The American Psychological Association does not recognize bibliomania as a separate mental disorder in DSM.
However, anyone displaying the following symptoms in conjunction and or clearly enough will be deemed a bibliomaniac.
- Symptoms, other than an unhealthy obsession of collecting books, nonexistent.
- A desire to collect any book with minimal to know care about the worth, utility, or value of the book.
- Behaviour is obsessive enough to damage close relationships, which leads to social isolation.
- Of course, complete diagnosis can only be formed once the particulars of the patient in question are known.
Damage Caused by Bibliomania
Apart from decaying the social life of those afflicted by this mental disorder, Bibliomania does not pose any particular health risks by itself.
Rather the unhygienic and desperate hoarding of books in piles and rows can tend to become a safety hazard.
Ants, termites and other bugs will infest the materials of the bindings, pages, and thread and will make the books their feeding and breeding ground.
Patients can possess the tendency to be obsessed enough with the joy and satisfaction of collecting and owning a book that they might resort to the act of stealing to fulfill their burning desire.
This behavior is referred to as ‘Bibliokleptomania.’
Social lives will be ignored, and patients often display a tendency to withdraw from society in some cases.
Work lives and performance will be affected and social isolation will lead to depression, which often makes the condition worse.
Since they will be hoarding books without care for hygiene, this will lead to their living spaces, becoming unfavorable places for healthy lifestyles.
How Does One Treat Bibliomania?
Bibliomania has only recently been recognized as a disorder, and so in many cases, the person who is suffering themselves may not know that the root cause of their problems, or that the reason behind their unhealthy obsession is, in fact, a mental disorder.
In some cases, the bibliomaniac themselves might recognize their symptoms and can then begin taking therapy sessions or receive home visits from a mental health professional who might offer such a service.
Since it is a form of OCD, there are only two main ways known to tackle the issue when applied either alternatively or conjointly. They are;
The patients who attend a therapy session are often times treated with psychotherapy.
They are prescribed a form of therapy known as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT.
In this therapy, the patient’s higher cognitive self is made explicitly aware of its obsessive behavior.
The patient is helped in recognizing harmful behavior patterns and then is taught, by their respective therapist, the most effective way to deal with those behaviors and the problems arising because of them.
If the patient’s symptoms are beyond conventional treatment or are severe enough that assistance may be required to reap the full benefits of therapy and or other treatments, the use of medication is employed.
Commonly prescribed medications are;
- Tricyclic Antidepressants
These medications will help ease the chemical reaction inside the brain, which assists and enable obsessive-compulsive behaviors such as bibliomania.
With the patient in better control of themselves and their behavior, less depressed and worn out, and not as anxious and restless, it is much easier for them to benefit from the treatment received by and advice of their respective therapist.
Notable Names Who Suffered From Bibliomania.
- Stephen Blumberg was a man who lived in Ottumwa, Ohio. After being arrested for stealing 23,600 books in 1990, worth nearly 5.3 million USD, he was coined with the name ‘Book Bandit’ and became known as the most successful book thief in the history of the United States of America.
- Dibdin wrote a book named ‘Bibliomania, or book madness; A Bibliographical Romance’ with the intention of being a light satire pointed towards those he believed to be afflicted by this ‘neurosis.’ Alas Dibdin himself suffered from an unruly obsession with books or more so with the appearance of books. Dibdin medicalized the condition, going so far as to provide a list of symptoms manifested in the particular types of books that they obsessively sought: “First editions, true editions, black letter-printed books, large paper copies; uncut books with edges that are not sheared by binder’s tools; illustrated copies; unique copies with morocco binding or silk lining; and copies printed on vellum.”
Some Helpful Resources
- The Anatomy of Bibliomania
- The Mindfulness Workbook for OCD: A Guide to Overcoming Obsessions and Compulsions
- Brain Lock: Free Yourself from Obsessive-Compulsive Behavior
- Everyday Mindfulness for OCD: Tips, Tricks, and Skills for Living Joyfully
- Overcoming Unwanted Intrusive Thoughts
What does bibliomaniac mean?
A Bibliomaniac is a person who has an obsession with books, and the act of collecting them has escalated to unhealthy levels such that it hinders their work-life and close relations, in turn, driving them to the point of social isolation.
Can reading be an addiction?
An addiction can be defined as an activity that is the main priority of a person and causes distress to him due to his inability to stop.
Yes, reading can be addictive because people prioritize reading, and often they get anxiety when they cannot stop reading for long stretches of time.
What does a bibliophile collect?
A bibliophile is someone who loves books and usually has a collection of books (This is different from bibliomania where the patient’s obsession for collecting books can often be completely devoid of the desire to actually read them and can become socially damaging at its worst.)
They love browsing in a bookshop or a library, finding books they could add to their collection.
Their interest in books is usually healthy and practical.
What does bibliophobia mean?
Bibliophobia, as the name suggests, is a phobia of books. It includes the fear of the physical form of a book, or the fear of reading, especially the fear of reading aloud in public.
It causes great distress to the person experiencing it and is often not within their abilities to be able to control their impulsive fear.
What happens to the brain when you read?
Reading puts your brain to work, like exercising puts the body to work.
– It heightens brain connectivity, which means that the brain is constantly developing and connecting different ideas to each other as you read.
– It enhances the brain fluid, which means that your ability to solve problems and understand things better gets enhanced as you read.
– It improves concentration level, which means that you can concentrate for longer periods of time without getting distracted.
What is a bibliomania disorder?
Bibliomania itself is not considered a disorder. However, it is reported to be a symptom of OCD.
A Bibliomania disorder is a form of Obsessive-Compulsive-Behaviour in which the patient displays little to no other symptoms of obsessive behavior in any aspect of life other than the deep unhealthy desire to collect books irrespective of their practical utility to the collector themselves.