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Ask the Experts


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.