Obsessive-Compulsive Photography Disorder (OCPD) is characterized by perpetual thoughts about photography—when you are driving to work, when you are at work, when you are driving home from work, and even when you are lying in bed preparing to go to sleep. The symptoms of OCPD range from repetitive cleaning of one’s camera equipment (even when not dirty) and extensive hoarding of newly purchased gear (otherwise called NAS/CAS, or Nikon/Canon Acquisition Syndrome) to an obsessive preoccupation with where and when your next photo trip is going to take place. Individuals with this disorder will often walk or drive around aimlessly looking for any and all photo opportunities—even if it means lugging a 30 pound pack and tripod through a snow storm.
For those with OCPD tendencies, photography has most likely shifted from being just an avocation or casual pastime, to an unequivocal part of their identity and psychological makeup. Individuals with OCPD no longer look at the world through normal eyes, but as if they are peering through a camera viewfinder all the time—always in search of fresh perspectives and unique subject matter to capture. And irrespective of what subject is being discussed, individuals with OCPD will always find a way to relate any topic back to photography.
These symptoms may be alienating and time-consuming (especially to your significant other who often does not understand your disorder), and may even cause severe economic loss—especially when that new VR lens makes its way onto the B&H website.
The typical OCPD sufferer performs photography-related tasks, or compulsions, to seek relief from obsession-related anxiety. Within and among individuals, the initial obsessions, or intrusive thoughts, can vary in their clarity and vividness. A relatively vague obsession could involve a general sense of tension and imbalance, accompanied by the belief that life cannot proceed as normal unless our fingers are firmly planted on the shutter and we are actively engaged in the process of taking pictures.
In extreme cases, an individual who engages in compulsive hoarding of camera equipment might even be inclined to treat their gear as if it had the sentience or rights of a living organism. This will often manifest itself in the form of a nickname for our cameras, or otherwise assigning a gender reference, such as “she or her.”
While some with OCPD perform compulsive rituals because they inexplicably feel they must, others act compulsively so as to mitigate the anxiety that stems from not being able to take pictures all the time. Compulsions include counting specific things (such as pixels, frames per second, focus points, f-stops, number of lenses/camera bodies in one’s collection, etc.). For some people with OCPD, these tasks, along with the attendant and continuous thoughts about photography, can take hours of each day, making it hard for the person to fulfill their work, family, or social roles.
According to University-lead psychiatrists who have coined the term, “shutter therapy”—just going out and actually taking some pictures, rather than merely thinking about taking pictures, should be regarded as first-line treatment for OCPD. The occasional gear purchase can also help in managing some aspects of the disorder, although this is often a temporary solution. Winter can be a difficult time for OCPD sufferers, especially when stuck inside for any prolonged period of time. Often, these individuals will resort to taking pictures of meaningless and often uninspiring inanimate household objects (including but not limited to their cats) in order to satiate and quell their photo-related anxieties. Do You Have Obsessive-Compulsive Photography Disorder (OCPD)? Well, I think you know the answer to that question…