What Is Compulsive Hoarding?
Right now, compulsive hoarding is considered by many researchers to be a type of obsessive-compulsive disorder. However, for some people, compulsive hoarding may also be related to:
- Impulse control disorders (such as impulsive buying or stealing)
- Social anxiety
- Bipolar disorder
- Certain personality traits
- We don't know exactly. Some researchers have guessed that about half of 1 percent of the population suffers from compulsive hoarding, but the actual number may be much higher.
- People usually start hoarding during childhood or early adolescence, although the problem usually does not become severe until the person is an adult.
- Compulsive hoarding may run in families.
- Many people with compulsive hoarding do not recognize how bad the problem really is; often, it is a family member who is most bothered by the clutter.
Compulsive hoarding is thought to result from problems in one or more of these areas:
- Information processing. People with compulsive hoarding often have problems such as:
- Difficulty categorizing their possessions (for example, deciding what is valuable and what is not)
- Difficulty making decisions about what to do with possessions
- Trouble remembering where things are (and so they often want to keep everything in sight so they don't forget)
- Beliefs about possessions. People with compulsive hoarding often:
- Feel a strong sense of emotional attachment toward their possessions (for example, an object might be felt to be very special, or a part of them)
- Feel a need to stay in control of their possessions (and so they don't want anyone touching or moving their possessions)
- Worry about forgetting things (and use their possessions as visual reminders)
- Emotional distress about discarding. People with compulsive hoarding often:
- Feel very anxious or upset when they have to make a decision about discarding things
- Feel distressed when they see something they want, and think they can't feel better until they acquire that object
- Control their uncomfortable feelings by avoiding making the decision, or putting it off until later