Usually obsessions do not cause any problems beyond a possible and minimal waste of time. But what to do when worries and hobbies turn into obsessions?
According to the RAE, a mania is a capricious, and sometimes extravagant, concern. In popular culture, being manic is associated with sticking to certain rigid behaviors that are slightly resistant to change, but perfectly avoidable and that don’t cause too much anxiety.
It should be noted that, in colloquial language, the terms “mania”, “obsession” and “passion” are often considered to be (or almost) synonyms. This is not psychologically correct, as mania refers to an overly euphoric and thoughtless state of mind.
However, drawing this parallel between the words mania and obsession makes the topic easier to understand. One thing is clear: you can be obsessed or passionate about almost anything you can think of. No one is therefore immune to manias. At any time, each of us can adopt ritualistic behavior.
We know a lot of these obsessions and they even have names, like for example music addiction (obsession or passion for music). However, many more are not known or we do not know what to name them. Here we present five of them.
Glazomania: obsession with lists
Glazomania is the obsession, passion or fascination with lists. This obsession can be seen as a tool to be more effective, even to reduce the level of stress: lists work as a form of anticipation.
People with glazomania find that making lists helps them stay organized. However, one must distinguish between passion for lists and other disorders such as OCD or obsessive-compulsive personality disorder.
In the OCD checking subtype, the presence of certain obsessions causes the onset of compulsive checking behaviors. These behaviors are intended to reduce anxiety.
The use of lists can then become a checking strategy allowing to put an end to the constraint. An example: check that the item “close the door” has been marked in the list, instead of checking that the door is properly closed.
According to the DSM-5, OCD consists of a concern for order, perfectionism and efficiency. Among the diagnostic criteria collected for this disorder, is the concern for details, rules, lists, organization … To the point of neglecting the main objective of the activity, the objective of the list itself.
Both disorders cause distress or significant impairment in social, professional, or other important areas of life. This characteristic is what distinguishes the mere taste of making lists from a disorder like OCD,
Drug addiction: obsession with taking medication
Drug addiction is the obsession with taking medication in situations where it would not be necessary or for purposes for which a certain drug is not indicated. This concept can be related to pharmacophilia (as opposed to pharmacophobia) which is the inclination or predisposition to take drugs.
Among the disorders that may be related to this concept are hypochondria, as well as pain disorders and fibromyalgia. The behavior of taking a drug “just in case” or “to avoid” has been linked to taking pain relievers in patients with chronic pain as a strategy to avoid pain.
In the case of hypochondria, the fear of suffering from an illness can lead to excessive medication. The patient thus seeks to preserve or improve certain physiological functions.
An example can be the patient who takes daily laxative drugs in order to have an adequate intestinal transit and to avoid the intestinal obstruction which he so fears. However, associated with hypochondria, we also find the opposite pole, resistance to taking drugs for fear of side effects.
Obsessions related to rest: catisomania and clinomania
There are different obsessions related to different aspects of rest, such as lying down, sitting down or sleeping. They all look the same, but they have subtle differences that we’ll explore.
Catisomania is the obsession with sitting. The person feels an irrepressible urge to sit down. It may even lead her to take the place of the elderly or pregnant women in public transport. Or to sit on the floor while she is in line, etc.
It should not be confused with clinomania, which corresponds to an irrepressible desire to lie down. Nor with hypnomania, which is the obsession with sleep. In the case of clinomania, a person’s life revolves around lying in bed.
Tanorexia: obsession with tanning
Tanorexia is the obsessive urge to have darker skin, that is, to be tanned. It could be considered an addiction or a subtype of body dysmorphic disorder.
These people are very concerned with what they consider to be a blemish, fair skin. This “defect” can be real or imaginary. People with tanorexia associate tanned skin with beauty. They are unable to live without a tan or UVA rays.
Strategies for getting a tan consist of prolonged sessions of UVA rays or long periods in the sun. They can even adopt risky behaviors.
For example: sunbathing without properly using sunscreen. Another example: using tanning accelerators that put the health of the skin at risk.
The beneficial effects of sunlight on our health are well known. However, prolonged or unprotected exposure increases the risk of skin problems : sunburn, skin cancer, melanoma, premature aging of the skin, etc.
Treatment for tanorexia depends on its origin. On the one hand, it can be conceptualized as an addiction or as a bodily dysmorphic disorder. On the other hand, sunbathing can be taken seasonally, as a form of self-management of a depressive disorder with a seasonal pattern.
In addition, we know that sunlight promotes the release of endorphins and generates a feeling of relaxation, well-being and euphoria. For this reason, in addition to psychological treatment, other means of increasing endorphins should be sought: exercising, listening to music, laughing, etc.
Some thoughts on obsessions
These five obsessions described here are just a small sample of the great repertoire that exists. In general, they are not serious and should not matter more than they are. Having any of these obsessions or “being a little manic” isn’t bad, as long as it doesn’t affect daily activity or cause anxiety.
We have to prevent those peculiarities that make us unique and special from becoming unbearable hobbies. And this is possible by being flexible and tolerant.
A mania should not make us overstep certain limits of coexistence, nor should it make us want to completely control the way others behave. If a mania reduces our quality of life, it’s time to see a professional.