• Unnamed man, 47, hoards pieces of paper, bike parts and digital photos
  • Takes millions of landscapes shots but cannot bear to throw them away
  • He has now begun treatment to delete lesser quality snaps 
  • Until now, no scientific papers on digital hoarding have been documented

Madlen Davies for MailOnline

A hoarder with millions of digital photographs spends up to five hours a day organising them, preventing him from sleeping, cleaning his house or going outside.

The 47-year-old man, who is unidentified, takes up to 1,000 digital photographs a day – mainly of landscapes – and becomes extremely distressed at the thought of throwing them away.

He never uses or looks at the pictures, which are saved on his computer and on hard drives, but is convinced they might be of use in the future, say doctors describing his situation in the journal BMJ Case Reports.

The man’s case has prompted the medics to introduce ‘digital hoarding’ as a new type of hoarding disorder. 

An unidentified man hoards pieces of paper, bike parts and digital photographs. Pictured is the man's living room, published by the medical journal with his permission

An unidentified man hoards pieces of paper, bike parts and digital photographs. Pictured is the man’s living room, published by the medical journal with his permission

‘Digital hoarding is the accumulation of digital files to the point of loss of perspective, which eventually results in stress and disorganisation,’ they wrote in the journal.

‘Although digital hoarding does not interfere with cluttering of living spaces, it has an immense impact on daily life functioning.

‘Although no scientific papers have been published on this subject, the problem is frequently described on the internet by patients and by professionals.’ 

The man, who is unmarried and childless, living in an apartment in Amsterdam, was referred to a psychiatry clinic at the Academic Medical Center, in Amsterdam, after requesting to treat his hoarding behaviour.

He had been previously been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in combination with traits of attention deficit disorder (ADD).

DIGITAL HOARDING DISORDER: A NEW MENTAL ILLNESS?

Doctors from the Netherlands believe they have coined a new term for a specific type of hoarding disorder.  

Writing in the journal BMJ Case Reports, they presented the case of a man who accumulate and organised thousands of digital pictures.

This caused him distress and impaired his life as if affected his sleep and hygiene.

No scientific papers on digital hoarding have been documented up to now, doctors said

No scientific papers on digital hoarding have been documented up to now, doctors said

Writing in the journal, the doctors said: ‘Digital hoarding is the accumulation of digital files to the point of loss of perspective, which eventually results in stress and disorganisation,’ they wrote in the journal.

‘Although digital hoarding does not interfere with cluttering of living spaces, it has an immense impact on daily life functioning.

 ‘Although no scientific papers have been published on this subject, the problem is frequently described on the internet by patients and by professionals.’

They continued: ‘No university or hospital websites have addressed the problem or offered professional treatment.

‘A few clinical psychologists claim treatment in the form of behavioural therapy focusing on distraction by other activities, building on social skills and improving sleep hygiene.

‘Technology companies have reacted to the phenomenon by offering tools and software for archiving and filing computer files.

‘However, the possibility of saving more files might stop any tendency to actually delete files to gain more overview of data.’ 

In addition, he had suffered periods of depression since 1994, and was being treated with anti-depressants.

The man told doctors that he began hoarding objects at university, and it gradually became worse as he got older.

He mainly hoards inexpensive items like paper and parts of bikes, as he feels comfortable around them and finds it difficult to throw them away.

However, the objects clutter up his apartment and mean he is embarrassed to invite people over.

Five years ago, he obtained a digital camera and also started hoarding digital pictures.

As he is unemployed, living on an allowance, digital photography has become his main daytime activity, he said.

He takes up to 1,000 photographs a day, mainly of landscapes, and cannot throw them away, even though many are very similar.

He told doctors he has never used or looked at the pictures he has saved, but is convinced they might be of use in future, and believes some could be published.

He has four hard drives with the original pictures and four external hard drives with backups.

Organising the huge numbers of pictures causes the man ‘feelings of frustration’, he told doctors.

It is also extremely time-consuming, as he spends between three and five hours a day sorting them.

‘It interfered with his sleeping pattern and kept him from other activities such as cleaning his house, going outside and relaxing,’ doctors wrote in the journal.

After carrying out various questionnaires, doctors diagnosed him with a hoarding disorder.

They noted that having ADHD is a strong predictor for hoarding disorder, as rates of the illness are higher in patients with this disorder than the general public.

They decided that as well as the hoarding of physical objects, the patient had a specific type of hoarding disorder, which they called ‘digital hoarding’.

This has been described online in blogs or magazines, but has never been described in medical literature before, they claim.

‘With this case report, we would like to introduce “digital hoarding” as a new subtype of hoarding disorder,’ they wrote. 

The man was treated with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), and has begun to de-clutter his house, though doctors report the treatment progresses slowly as the man wants to have full control over what is thrown away.

Next, his treatment will focus on organising his pictures based on their subject, and deleting pictures that are of lesser quality. 

The man takes up to 1,000 digital photographs a day, mainly of landscapes, and becomes extremely distressed at the thought of throwing them away. He is now being treated for his hoarding disorder (file pic) 

The man takes up to 1,000 digital photographs a day, mainly of landscapes, and becomes extremely distressed at the thought of throwing them away. He is now being treated for his hoarding disorder (file pic) 

 

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