Are You a Digital Hoarder?

Are You a Digital Hoarder?

Despite the turtle-paced speed of internet connections in the Philippines, we Filipinos still love to download things on our computers or phones. From full seasons of TV series and movies to eBooks, comics, pictures, and games, we end up filling up our devices with stuff that we promise to watch, read, or play someday.

But did you know that when done to the extreme, this act of collecting digital objects can be considered hoarding?

What Is Hoarding?

For those who are unfamiliar with this condition, we first have to define what hoarding really is. According to the Obsessive Compulsive and Related Disorders Fact Sheet by the American Psychiatric Association, a hoarding disorder is:

“characterized by the persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions, regardless of the value others may attribute to these possessions. […] For individuals who hoard, the quantity of their collected items sets them apart from people with normal collecting behaviors. They accumulate a large number of possessions that often fill up or clutter active living areas of the home or workplace to the extent that their intended use is no longer possible.”

Simply put, a hoarder is someone who accumulates too much stuff that they end up making their house or workplace unlivable.

However, this definition only pertains to physical objects. This medical definition of hoarding has not yet been expanded to include digital objects. After all, it was only in 2013 that hoarding disorder was officially considered a separate condition with the release of DSM-5; it was just previously listed as a symptom of obsessive-compulsive disorder.

But with the advent of technology, there are now calls for digital hoarding to be recognized as a subset of hoarding disorder. An article published in the journal BMJ Case Reports in 2015 details the case of a 47-year-old man who stores thousands of photographs in his computer plus four hard drives. While this may seem normal on the surface, the man’s obsession with storing and organizing these photos was already eating so much of his time. This has prevented him from carrying out everyday tasks and living normally.

So Are You a Digital Hoarder?

Since there are no medical definitions for digital hoarding yet, medical professionals simply adhere to a simple rule. If it already harms your health or prevents you from living normally, it can be hoarding. In an article on the Wall Street Journal, Christina Villareal, a cognitive-behavioral therapist, notes that some of her clients spend so much on games or music that they skip buying food.

Meanwhile, in an article on Yahoo!, psychologist Michael Tompkins shares that some physical hoarders see digitizing their stash as the solution to their problems. However, there runs a risk that someone may still neglect everyday tasks due to spending too much time on making digital versions of their hoard.

While there have been no formal reported cases of digital hoarding in the Philippines yet, it’s important to keep in mind that there are cases of physical hoarding reported here. One example was reported in a feature on GMA News, where a woman ended up collecting 35 dogs and nine cats, yet was unable to take care of all them. And in a blog post, clinical psychologist Dr. Boboy Sze Alianan narrates the story of Glenda. In Glenda’s case, her apartment is so full of items that she cannot even use her furniture, due to the objects piled on them.

With cases such as these in the Philippines, digital hoarding doesn’t seem so far-fetched. So while there’s nothing wrong with collecting movies, eBooks, and pictures on your hard drive, it’s also important that it doesn’t get in the way of everyday life. And should that collecting habit become hoarding, causing a negative impact on your health, it’s important to seek the advice of a psychologist to get the right help.
Clara Buenconsejo
Clara Buenconsejo

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