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Bibliomania: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

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Bibliomania means ‘book madness’. People who suffer from this disorder have an obsession with amassing and storing up books, even when they may not be interested in reading the books. The disorder becomes a mental illness when it inhibits the daily living of an individual.

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Many people like collecting interesting objects, some of which can even be weird. However, there are times where the collection becomes an addiction and converts to hoarding.

The hoarding could be for any sort of item, from newspapers to even animals. There have been examples where people who obsessively collect things have been found dead along with a heap of garbage.

Bibliomania can be a sign of obsessive-compulsive disorder, which involves the accumulation and hoarding of books to the point where social relations or health are affected significantly.

Bibliomania is different from bibliophilia, which is the (psychologically healthy) love of books, and as such, is not deemed a clinical psychological disorder.

People affected by Bibliomania feel the compulsion to collect books even if they are not obsessed with reading. They are uneasy with discarding the books, and they try to hide their habits from others.

Some people affected by Bibliomania might also suffer from bibliokleptomania, which is an inclination to steal books to add to the collection. People suffering from bibliokleptomania usually prefer to steal books from libraries where they are not likely to get caught in comparison to bookstores.

Causes of Bibliomania?

Bibliomania is popular, and it has been examined and discussed for nearly two centuries, but the American Psychiatric Association refuses to recognize it as a psychological disorder. Bibliomania may stem from past life or childhood of the patient.

It is likely that the person as a child was attached to books and developed the fear of losing them. This can be discovered by a detailed interview with the patient.

Symptoms of Bibliomania

A lot of persons collect books, but it does not mean that they are all suffering from Bibliomania. There are specific signs that may be indicative of Bibliomania in affected individuals. These include:

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A pattern of acquiring large quantities of books:

One of the numerous abnormal behaviors linked with Bibliomania is depicted by the collection of books that are useless to the collector nor have any no intrinsic value to a genuine book collector.

It can also be depicted by the purchase of several copies of the same book and edition, and the accumulation of books beyond possible capacity of use or enjoyment are frequent symptoms of Bibliomania. The books might not be related to any topic of interest.

The books are usually not well arranged but are stored in every space possible, including office spaces or vehicles. The arrangement can make the living space unhygienic.

They are usually associated with a lack of interest in reading the books; most persons with Bibliomania are generally not interested in reading the books that they collect.

Unreasonable display of possessiveness about the collection and feeling of anxiety when people suggest they give their books away.

People affected by Bibliomania can suffer from Fixation with the obsession and social alienation from others.

Complications of Bibliomania

There are known complications. However, it may prove to be dangerous and lead to complications in day to day life of a patient:

  • The patient may trip and fall over the books, which can cause injuries and fractures and even make the patient bedridden.
  • The pile of books is at risk of catching fire.
  • The cramped and unhealthy living conditions may affect the general health of the patient
  • The social, work and personal life of the person be affected by this as a person with this disorder tend to isolate themselves from others.

Treatment

Patients with Bibliomania may be unaware that they are affected by this mental illness. They are usually taken in for treatment by others and do not come on their own.

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Home visits by the therapist are also essential to comprehend the exact extent of the disorder.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Treatment of Bibliomania is large via psychotherapy. Cognitive-behavioral therapy plays a significant role in the treatment of Bibliomania.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is the most useful intervention to cure Bibliomania entirely. It involves psychotherapies designed for the bibliomaniac to practice setting and achieving goals.

In this treatment, the patient is made aware that the condition is a mental problem and is guided and helped to deal with it. Bibliomania can also be treated with Exposure and response prevention (ERP), which is another type of Psychotherapy.

Medication

People affected by Bibliomania can benefit from using antidepressants, i.e SSRI’s – paroxetine, fluoxetine, sertraline, High dosage of Inositol (Vitamin B8), clomipramine, and desipramine.

People suffering from Bibliomania can also benefit from Hypnotherapy just like anosognosia.

People with Bibliomania

Stephen Blumberg was known as a bibliomaniac who resided in Ottumwa, Iowa. Unfortunately, the books he amassed did not belong to him as they were stolen from 327 libraries and museums across 45 states in the USA, the district of Columbia, and two provinces in Canada.

Blumberg was an indefatigable nomad who was constantly on the move, but he never sold the books he stole. He just kept collecting more

He was very skilled at avoiding detection. He would wiggle through ventilation ducts in ceilings and crawl up and down freight elevators.

One time, he was nearly crushed by a service elevator when he was trying to climb the elevator shaft, but he was able to squeeze into an inspection bay indention in the wall.

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After being arrested and charged for stealing more than 23,600 books worth US$5.3 million in 1990, about $10M in 2019), he became known as the Book Bandit and was known as the most successful book thief in history.

Sir Thomas Phillipps, was an English Antiquary and book collector who suffered from severe Bibliomania in the 19th century, he accumulated the largest collection of manuscript material.

He was the son of a textile manufacturer and inherited a considerable estate, which he spent almost entirely on acquiring vellum manuscripts and, when out of funds, borrowed profoundly to buy manuscripts, thereby putting his family deep into debt.

Phillipps recorded in an early catalog that his collection was instigated by reading various accounts of the destruction of valuable manuscripts.

In 1808, when Phillipps was 16 years old, he already owned 112 books; later in life, he is recorded to have said that he wanted to own one of every book in the world.

His collection, which at his death contained over 160,000 books and manuscripts, was still being auctioned off over 100 years after his death.

Rev. W.F. Whitcher was a 19th-century Methodist pastor who, after having stolen and rebound rare books, would assert they were rare “finds” from local booksellers.

References;

Bibliomania: MedinIndiaWikipedia.

Bibliomania
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Disclaimer: This article is purely informative & educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.

Jennifer Aigbini
I am a language enthusiast, studying Linguistics at the University of Benin, in Nigeria.
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