What is Compulsive Hoarding?

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  • Written By: Phil Shepley
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
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  • Last Modified Date: 18 August 2019
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Compulsive hoarding is a condition in which a person feels the need to collect everything they possibly can while being unable to get rid of anything. The items that he or she collects do not necessarily have any value. A compulsive hoarder is often a person with obsessive-compulsive disorder(OCD).

This acquisition of possessions is not to be confused with collecting objects such as comic books or antiques. Compulsive hoarding involves saving many objects that are thrown away every day by the general population. Some items the hoarder may accumulate include newspapers, broken appliances, expired food items, bags and magazines.

There are several other characteristics of compulsive hoarding. One is that the hoarder's living space tends to become cluttered to the point where it is nearly unlivable. In a house where compulsive hoarding occurs, every single room ends up being completely full of items, leaving perhaps only a narrow walkway. The items are not usually neatly arranged. They end up being stacked up very feet high and crammed together, resembling piles of garbage and leaving the hoarder little space to sleep, eat and live.


Another characteristic of the pathologically hoarding individual is an inability to function normally as a result of the disorder. Part of their condition is a need for perfection. A majority of the hoarder’s time is spent doing the smallest of chores. These also include transferring possessions from one pile to another with little or no significant change and without a decrease in the number of objects. He or she cannot throw things away, and tends to completely avoid other tasks and decisions as a result of striving for perfection. The hoarder also lacks the ability to prioritize which objects are more important than others. In their collections you will find important documents right next to expired food items.

As a result of the compulsive hoarding, they also become socially isolated. They are very self-aware of what they do and tend to not invite guests over as a result, sometimes for years at a time. Other people tend to avoid the hoarder as well. This is not only because of the horrendous clutter, but also because hoarders sometimes have a difficult time returning borrowed items.

Compulsive hoarding can be especially difficult to treat. It is sometimes categorized as an obsessive-compulsive behavior, but the medications and treatments associated with OCD sometimes have little effect on the hoarder. Between 700,000 and 1.4 million people in the United States are believed to have compulsive hoarding syndrome.


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Post 2

@medicchristy -- I've seen that show too. I couldn't believe some of the conditions that people were living in. One particular man enjoyed the company of mice. He started letting them in and, naturally, they started breeding. He had several thousand mice in his home. There was literally not an area in the floor where you didn't see a mouse. He said it was more of a "collection" and refused to let them go.

Post 1

I never really realized that hoarding was a real problem until I watched the show on TV called "Hoarders". I was absolutely amazed at what I saw. I quickly learned that overcoming compulsive hoarding is not an easy task.

Looking back, I would say that my mother was a "light" hoarder. She mainly hoarded things such as newspapers, article clippings, invitations, etc.

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