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What Is Graphomania?

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  • Written By: Tara Barnett
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 28 October 2016
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Graphomania is a condition in which a person feels an obsessive impulse or compulsion to write. When describing a medical condition, this impulse is so serious that the afflicted individual may not even write in comprehensible or grammatical language or take much interest in the things he or she is writing. In other contexts, this term can be used to verbally devalue the work of a writer or to describe the attitude of a larger group. When used in this way, the term is somewhat figurative, describing an attitude about writing rather than an actual compulsion to write.

As a medical condition, graphomania has no singular cause. The subjective experience of a compulsion to write can also be quite personal. Whether a person suffers from graphomania or is simply highly involved in writing is typically a matter of results and the condition of that person's life. An individual who writes compulsively but whose writing results in a long career as a successful novelist might suffer from this condition, but this is irrelevant, as the illness is diagnosed only in cases where it interferes with an individual's life.

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Technically, this condition is not the same as graphorrhea, which is a completely nonsensical outpouring of words in writing. It is generally assumed that graphomania has a basis in sensible communication, the value of which may be up for debate. Composing relatively coherent sentences in any language is the defining difference between these two conditions. Another related condition called typomania involves an obsession with seeing one's name in print. This condition is significantly different in that it has a social aspect.

When a person who is obviously not suffering from a mental disorder is described as having graphomania, the intended effect is typically pejorative. This amateur diagnosis is often used for a person who writes but is not a professional writer and never will be and also for people who are published but unskilled. The sole purpose of using the term graphomania in this way is to devalue the work of the writer. Essentially, accusing a person of having graphomania is the same as claiming that seeing value in that person's writing is a symptom of a mental illness.

This term is unfortunately highly dependent on context for its definition. It is always associated with large amounts of writing, but in some cases it is not even applied to a single person. For example, a culture might be said to suffer from graphomania if it, as a group, allows a large number of frivolous written works to be produced and published. Uses like this are possibly more common than any medical diagnosis and must be interpreted by considering the attitude of the speaker.

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