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I am a collector, always have been, probably always will be. As a little girl my collections where stationary, pens and cats, as a teenager I had a passion for flavoured teas, multicolored scarves and fairy-tales. Now I don’t really have any one collection, although my shoe ornaments seem to be sprinting ahead, but I love a good find in a charity shop or a flea market rummage. Anything retro or a little off-beat can make my heart beat faster,  a smile spread involuntary from ear to ear and a warm glow steep  throughout my body. I think they call it a buyers rush, but for me it’s the joy of finding something with a story attached to it.

So when I was searching for an 80s inspired dress for my Pretty in Pink night out, I couldn’t believe my luck when I spied a bright red coffee pot and jug of the same era. The white Nescafe logo on red and simple lines are true to it’s early eighties origins and even though I don’t really drink coffee I think it is the perfect accessory for any breakfast table.

But while I was looking for the perfect place to store my newly washed crockery a thought occurred to me, when does collecting become hoarding? At what point does your attachment to things grow too strong, leaving you helpless and unable to part with the inanimate?

A British study from 2012 showed that a third of all adults collect something, but only  between 2-5% are actually hoarders. And while the world seems fascinated with this phenomenon, Hoarding, Buried Alive (my guilty pleasure) is now in its third year and 5th series, not many of us know very much about the condition.

The American Psychiatric Association is currently revising their  Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, renaming it DSM-5 when it is published later this year. In it the association will name six criteria to help diagnose hoarders, hoping that this will create more awareness for the illness and encourage people to come forward.

Since many of us seem to have a passion for collecting here is a boiled down list of the newly defined hoarding criteria:

  • Hoarding leaves the workplace and home so cluttered that it is rendered unusable and unlivable.
  • No matter what the actual value of an item the afflicted is unable to discard or part with it.
  • Discarding items causes extreme stress and persistent anxiety, encouraging the afflicted to save items.
  • The individual experiences clinical stress and impairment in social, work and other areas of functioning, including maintaining a safe home and work environment
  • Dementia is not the cause of this impairment, nor or any other medical conditions
  • The hoarding is not part of another psychological disorder such as major depression or OCD

Through this list hoarding is now a stand-alone disorder, no longer attached to OCD. The authors of DSM-5 believe that hoarding can occur even without the obsessive compulsive side.

However since there is still no “diagnostic” criteria for collecting, making it hard to see when it begins to overlap with hoarding, I think for now I will just hope that my passion for retro is still within the boarders of ‘normal’. And as long as I can still see my floor and have space to put things away I think I am safe.