What is Hoarding?
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What is Hoarding?

Information about hoarding. The symptoms and causes of hoarding.

Hoarding is characterized by an excessive collecting of items and the inability to discard or organize those items. Many people believe that hoarding is a subtype of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), but hoarding is actually believed to be a separate disorder. Hoarding is often considered a symptom of OCD, but many times hoarders are not considered obsessive compulsive because they show no other signs of that disorder. People who hoard do not see a problem with their behavior even though when the hoarding gets out of hand it can cause relationship issues, health problems, embarrassment, and sometimes death.

Any item can be hoarded. The most common items that people have an overabundance of include; newspapers, magazines, clothing, knickknacks, books and junk mail. Some people have also been known to hoard animals, food and garbage. Hoarders are emotionally attached to the items they own and have a very hard time getting rid of them. Most items have some significant value to the owner. Each item holds a memory or has a use.

Symptoms of Hoarding

There are many symptoms associated with hoarding. These symptoms are easily seen. Symptoms of hoarding include:

  • Excessive collecting
  • The inability to get rid of belongings
  • Very happy to receive new items, but shows sadness, fear and anxiety when getting rid of an item
  • Saving stacks of newspapers, magazines, and junk mail
  • Difficulty completing daily living tasks
  • Procrastination
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Very few social interactions
  • Difficulty letting others touch their belongings
  • A belief that the items are valuable and/or needed
  • A belief that inanimate objects have feelings
  • Denial

Causes of Hoarding

Hoarding behavior is often found in individuals who have other disorders including; schizophrenia, ADHD, and dementia. Hoarding seems to be a continuum that starts off in childhood and goes through adulthood to old age. The behavior seems to worsen as the person ages.

Neuropsychological testing and neuroimaging research has been done in an attempt to find out the causes of this disorder. The studies showed abnormalities in the frontal lobe, and other parts of the brain. These abnormalities lead to problems with memory. The difficulty with memory leads to problems with sorting, making decisions and discarding of possessions.

Problems Caused by Hoarding

Hoarding behaviors can lead to difficulties within the individual's personal life. Spouses and children, may be embarrassed by the family members clutter. Children will not invite friends over to visit because they are ashamed of the way their home looks and their parents behavior. Other company is limited and close relationships may fail.

The stacks of items throughout the home can limit mobility and cause difficulties with finding things that are needed. It can be difficult to get to certain places within the home. The walkways are small and it is easy to trip over things. Large stacks of stuff can fall and pin a person down, causing injuries and sometimes death. The home is also at greater risk of catching on fire.

The hoarders house is rarely clean. The unsanitary living conditions can cause the family to be sick a lot of the time. If the family is eating expired food, there is a chance that food poisoning can occur.

Treatment for Hoarding

Therapy and medications are used for the treatment of this disorder. Cognitive behavior therapy is the most common form of therapy given to hoarders. While in therapy the person explores will explore the reasons behind the hoarding behaviors, Improve decision making skills, learn relaxation techniques and learn to declutter.

There are not a lot of medications used to treat this disorder. The most common prescriptions given are for antidepressants. Paxil is the most common type of medication prescribed. Many researchers believe that medications do not help with this disorder, but many studies have shown improvement with the symptoms of hoarding.


Hartford Hospital: Anxiety Disorders Center/Center for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy:

Compulsive Hoarding

Mayoclinic.com: Hoarding

International OCD Foundation (IOCDF)

Additional resources:

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Comments (3)

A surprisingly popular issue today. I wonder if hoarding behavior is on the increase due to some fundament flaw in our social development, or if it's always been as prevalent.

I'm a wee bit guilty, really must get into the swing of recycling some things lol

Very well done! I know someone who exhibits this behavior...but I'm sure they are in denial. Thanks for the share