Experiences

Obsessive Hobby Disorder OHD

hobbyYears ago I was diagnosed with OHD–Obsessive Hobby Disorder. Apparently its rare, really rare. Mostly this is because the acronym and diagnosis was made up specifically to apply to me and from what I understand does not apply to anyone else. Or does it?

You see, I was married at the time to a school teacher who dealt daily with 5th graders who had been pigeon holed and categorized with a variety of acronym type terms: ADD, ADHD, OCD, TS and TT. The percentage of students put into each of these categories was high–I don’t doubt it would be over half of her classes. One day she told me I have OHD. I asked her what that was, and she said, Obsessive Hobby Disorder.

OHD is an absolute obsession with the hobby of the moment. I’ve gone through many hobbies over the years. One hobby, as mentioned in my other blog post, was Goliath Bird-Eating Spiders. Once I became interested in spiders, it quickly became an obsession. I went to the library and checked out over 20 books on tarantula spiders. I didn’t read every word of every book, but I did skim through them and ready chapters or various paragraphs that caught my attention. I also spent hours each night surfing the internet reading on the topic and looking of photos of various types of tarantulas. I found the local spider group, the Southern Nevada Herpetological Society. These folks were experts on exotic pets from lizards to snakes to spiders. They helped answer some of my questions which I didn’t find in books or online. I also tracked down a spider breeder in a nearby city who raised and sold spiders to local pet shops. For about three months almost any conversation I had would revert to the discussion of tarantulas after about 20 minutes.

I took a similar approach with chess, rockets, website design, watches, lizards, mid-century modern architecture, and various other topics. Each of these became an obsession for months at a time, eclipsing all other interests in my life. Today, after hours of intense therapy, I’ve managed to get most of my OHD under control to where it doesn’t impact my conversations with people. I’m no longer as much of a social leper as when I was first diagnosed with OHD. Do you have OHD? If so, how have you dealt with it?

15 comments

  1. i have it i’ve just realised tonight that i do,my wife jokes that i have a new hobby or interest every couple of weeks,if i’ts not going back playing my local sport i’ts cars or motorbikes. i had a long spell keeping reptiles,then i wanted a cat,then a dog then gold fish,i didn’t get a cat or dog yet but i will get a dog eventually.i wouldn’t call my behavour obsessive like i dont do anything possible to buy a car i’ve seen or anything or go hungery for my latest fad,but at any one time something seems really “cool” or interesting but given time it wears off.usually i just go with the flow and enjoy what im doing at the time,i’t doesn’t cause friction with family life or upset my or anyone in any way.i want it all i guess,so trying different things all the time keeps me happy.oh by the way when im interested in something i also get books from the library or trawl the net looking for info on the particular subject at the time.so your not on your own there chap.

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  2. I know exactly how it feels.

    When a new hobby arrives it starts casual.
    After a month or two I become an expert on the subject matter. I feel the need to perfect the art (pool, trading card games, MMO’s, brewing, cooking etc..). It usually ends with me loosing interest after a couple of months/years then picking up something else, or I lose interest because something else captivated me.

    It negatively affects social interaction and I only realized that recently. Trying to manage it on your own is not easy.

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  3. I agree with glaciered that it can negatively effect your social life as you become inconsistent. The friends you make through a certain hobby will have a difficult time relating to you, and you relating to them, once you move on to your next. I say this because I too exhibit similar traits and have struggled to manage the tendency.

    How do you deal with/manage this?

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  4. Ive always had a rather compulsive nature but recently my obsessive hobby is tropical fish keeping. I spend hours on the net researching everything about the fish i own (or ones i want to own) also i find the purchasing of ‘stuff’ needed for any given hobby gives me a real buzz- especially as ebay always has a steady stream of 2nd hand aquariums at a fraction of the cost they charge in shops. Usually i am the only person involved in my hobbies so there is usually a partner telling me ‘ you dont really need that … Do you?’ etc, but i started this hobby as my partner had a tropical fish tank that we stocked together and now we have fish tanks all over the house, ive even started travelling greater distances to see what fish they have. Bottom line, its getting expensive.
    Anyhoo, in answer to other peoples questions, i find that by keeping myself so busy with my job that i am literally shattered by the end of the day so i dont have the energy to be obsessive really helps. I run my own plumbing and eating business so its easy to tire myself out. ( the only reason i think this obsession is getting out of hand is due to the fact that business has been a bit slow lately so ive had a lot more time to ‘play’ ) probably not the most helpful story for others but thats how i deal with it. Hopefully business will pick up soon: before i bankrupt myself buying aquaria.

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  5. I believe it to actually be true. My fiancé gets on to a certain subject and just obsesses with it for weeks to months then it will switch to another topic. This last month has been horrible which is funny because his knew obsession is christianity all of a sudden. He told me he no longer wants to make love because it’s sin and is talking about moving out. We have been together for 7 years and are engaged. So yeah it is actually a real thing in his case

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  6. To me this very real disorder is a blessing and a curse. When I was a kid I had trouble picking a profession or career because I didn’t want to be tied down to one particular thing. I wanted to experience a lot of (unconventionally cool) things. When I was younger I was obsessed with comic books and basketball cards. Then art and drawing. Then music and classic literature and Mlb baseball. In the last year things have gone from bad to worse. Walking Dead TV and graphic novels, firearms and marksmanship, survival and bug out bag building, pen and ink, watercolor painting, knives and bush blades, and most recently an obsession for air hockey. Hobbies can be expensive and time consuming and therein lies the rub. These things consume my thoughts totally. I research constantly, casually, to feed my fascinations. I believe these lead to a fuller life. I want to be well rounded. If money was no problem for me it would be much less of an issue I’m sure but it’s always a problem. You can’t play air hockey without a 1500 dollar table, 4 dollars a comic book, 18 a novel, 32 cents a round, 4 hours a ballgame, a day at the range, a day at the arcade, and 600 bucks on survival gear I may never get to use. I realize this isn’t normal behavior but I have a lot of love for a lot of hobbies. Where do I go from here?

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  7. Of course it’s real. I live with the real deal. His latest obsession is the newly acquired microlight. Before that it was the model aircraft, helicopters, raptors, whatever. We’ve had photography, fishing, and recently bee keeping, till they all died. Never content to have one, or two items i.e. cameras, bee hives, helicopter etc he has to acquire copious amounts. He has a shed especially devoted to the model aircraft. I can say it is affecting our relationship, as I spend so much time now on my own. If I object he thinks I just want to stop him doing what he wants. There seems to be be no room for compromise.

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  8. It is a mental escape from reality- just like sports or gambling and shopping. The promise of happiness is just around the corner. And the real payoff is the distraction from your real life that you unhappy with.
    It is a distraction and escape from a generalized feeling of anxiety (and probably ineffectiveness and power over your life) that you very well may have been carrying around since you grew up in a dysfunctional household.

    Or maybe that’s just me (and my cousin who is a more obsessive hobbyist -with an even worse father/upbringing than me and my alcoholic father.

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    • You have an interesting observation. I do feel I had a very functional household with a full time mother who was nurturing and a responsible hard working father, both of which were religious (not smoking, drinking or doing drugs). Recently I’ve been reading a book called Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi who believes that dancers, athletes and chess players are obsessed with these hobbies/sports because they have a “flow” experience where space and time disappear and they are totally focused in that moment and that period of time. The same is found in Eastern religions focusing heavily on meditation, mindfulness, and living in the current moment (letting go of the past and future). A lot of studies also talk about escapism through video games which has a flow type experience. I’m not sure what is all means if you have a happy and healthy childhood but enjoy “flow” experiences through obsessive hobbies. Certainly some element of escapism is there, but perhaps not quite in the way you are mentioning.

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  9. I laughed when I read this article and all the comments as I can completely associate with them, At the time of writing this, it is 6:30am, I’ve been up since 5am to undertake my latest project, which is upholstery and soft furnishing, I cannot start the powered stapler due to the noise and waking the rest of the house, so I’m bouncing off the walls, hence me coming on the net. Last month, it was home media networking, before that, words. I have to exhaust myself of the subject or hobby I have taken up before I’ll let it go, I also need to complete everything to perfection, otherwise I cannot move on. My poor, poor family!

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  10. I always knew I had a disorder of some sort when it came to my hobbies and interests. I’ll go backwards starting with my current obsession. GUITAR!

    I drive for a living to liquor stores all day merchandising them, but I’ll squeeze in some time every day to go to guitar center to search for my next guitar to buy since i’m learning on a cheap laminant guitar for the past 3 months. I play everything in the store for hours sometimes. Not just one guitar center, I go to all of them in the state I live in, a different one each day. I read reviews for hours about guitars, I make lists of which ones to go play next visit. I’ve finally picked one thank god since it was interfering with my life to some extent. I play for hours every day. My finger tips shed a layer every 3 days. they are numb and calised beyond belief. My friends are blown away by my ability after 3 months of playing. I can’t stop, won’t stop.

    This is how I get with eveything I take interest in. I’m over the top obsessed and it’s all I think about and all I wanna do in my spare time.

    I’ve been through this with –
    DJ’ing drum and bass & scratching.
    Programming drums in step sequencing software.
    collecting vinyl art toys.
    snowboarding.
    skateboarding.
    circuit bending kids toys to become musical instruments.
    the list goes on

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    • Sounds like we have a very similar OHD situation!

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      • I find the flow experience you describe while rock climbing. Everything else falls away, I find myself singularly focused on this act of moving my body up from the surface of Earth. In the course of learning to climb I found that I climbed best after I was able to focus singularly on the climb. This involves a clearing of the mind, nearly a form of meditation. This has become more and more purposeful over time. Among many other reasons I think this is why I have been persistently obsessive about rock climbing beyond my otherwise generalized spastic attachment to hobbies, OHD.

        Reading all about, buying the books relating to, repairing and listening to old tube radios does not have the same sort of persistent draw that I find from activities where I experience ‘flow’. Do you have hobbies that have been persistent outside of the decay you describe as being typical of OHD? How many of them are flow in nature?

        How do you think that OHD fits in with the idea of pursuing current passions, rather than long term goals? I am still currently pushing myself to find space to pursue hobbies that are no longer a super draw for me as they fold into a larger goal. I have successfully fulfilled some of these goals and I am grateful that I persisted after my initial fervor died away. More often than not I fail to achieve my purposed goal and this is frustrating, I’m not sure exactly where I fall in setting myself concrete future goals. Can you articulate where are you currently on your journey between passions and goals?

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        • I think rock climbing is a perfect example of where you can experience the “flow” experience. In answer to your question, yes I have many hobbies which induce a flow experience. Some are urban related like chess or video games, others are in nature like spelunking in water filled caves of Guatemala. Each requires tremendous focus “in the NOW” and dismissal of past/future.
          I’m not a fan of “goals” in general and in 2014 I decided to remove goals from my life (see http://sevenwanderstheworld.com/being-passionate-and-avoiding-goal-setting/). I believe goals are putting focus in the future and usually that focus is based on things we personally are not passionate about but rather what society or media tells us we “should” be passionate about. example: new years resolution to get to the gym or clean out the garage. both of these are usually driven by societal pressure and are not things we are passionate about pursuing. Passions are things you feel driven and compelled to do to the exclusion of other activities.

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