I retired from the New York City Fire Department and find myself obsessively buying and collecting guitars (I play), knives, rifles for target shooting, and magazines. I always buy too many of what ever it is I'm interested in at the time. I also dive head first into learning things to the point of being ridiculous.

Do I have obsessive-compulsive disorder or something else?

Also, I lost my son shortly after 9/11 in a car accident when he was 19. Would my behavior have anything to do with this loss?

Answered by: Jonathan W. Stewart

It is entirely possible that you are correct on both counts. Unfortunately, it requires a complete psychiatric interview to determine whether you have a psychiatric disorder and if so, what that disorder is and what it may be due to.

Regarding a possible effect of your son's death, that certainly had to have been a major life stress. Stress brings things out that otherwise do not show up. In particular, if I have a tendency to collect things but generally do not, under stress that tendency may be exaggerated, perhaps to the point that hoarding becomes a problem for me. I thus think of such events more as triggers than as causes.

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Jonathan Stewart, M.D.

Dr. Stewart, who received his B.A. from Swarthmore College and his M.D. from Yale University, has worked at the DES since 1978. He is interested in the diagnosis and treatment of affective disorders, particularly in biologic and clinical measures that help treatment decisions.

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