The Difference Between a Hoarder and a Collector

A hoarder is a person who acquires and collects items in excess and has difficulty is discarding or doing away with them. A hoarder develops strong attachments to the items they usually collect although worthless, invaluable, unsanitary and hazardous. Compulsive hoarding becomes a hindrance to a person’s activities of daily living such as cooking, sleeping, cleaning and personal hygiene.

Compulsive hoarding is also known as disposophobia or pathological hoarding. Some associate compulsive hoarding with obsessive-compulsive disorder. However, some people who hoard do not have obsessive-compulsive disorder related symptoms.

A hoarder is different from a collector. People who collect items for a specific collection such as books, stamps and figurines intentionally seek for items they could add to their collection. Collectors carefully arrange and categorize their collections. A hoarder on the other hand may take any random item they like and think might be useful, save them for future use and stack them anywhere at home without organizing it. A hoarder saves items for future need. A person may also hoard items as a reminder of past memories or ones that might represent beloved friends, family or pets.

Hoarders may be classified into three types. A hoarder of the first kind may show off something claiming it is very valuable and rare while the packaging clearly states that it is only made of a cheap material and can be bought at any store. A hoarder of the second type may keep a stack of already expired food and still insist on keeping it. Lastly, a hoarder of the third type keeps items as a hobby from old newspapers to nonfunctional tools to paper napkins.

Signs and symptoms of compulsive hoarding would include unkempt living spaces, difficulty throwing away or discarding things, moving items from one stack to another without getting rid of anything, collecting unimportant and useless things, trouble keeping appointments and schedules, difficulty in decision making, often delaying something at a later time, disorganized, unreasonable attachment to material possessions and limited social interactions.

There are varied treatments for compulsive hoarding. Pharmacological interventions include antidepressants. These medications do not cure the disorder itself but control the existing symptoms. Most people who are diagnosed with compulsive hoarding however are not responsive to drug treatments alone.

Therapeutic interventions include cognitive-behavioral therapy. A therapist visits the home of a hoarder, observes the gravity of the hoarding, assists in decision making, helps in organization and arrangement, relaxation skills and others. The therapy may take a while, probably years until the symptoms more or less are controlled.

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Compulsive Hoarding

Compulsive hoarding is a disorder seen in a lot of people, especially ones with OCD or Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Compulsive hoarding may also be known as pathological hoarding or disposophobia. Compulsive hoarding is defined as the excessive accumulation of items that have little or no value and having the difficulty in getting rid of them. These items are considered by most people as worthless junk. This eventually would induce a buildup of useless items resulting in cramped living spaces.

Because of this, normal function of routine activities would be hindered. The living spaces cannot be used anymore for their planned purposes. The clutter can lead to accidents and injuries and other threats to the health and safety of those living with a hoarder. It is estimated that up to 1.2 million people are diagnosed with compulsive hoarding in the United States.

Hoarders may be classified into three types. Hoarders of the first kind may show off a diamond set while claiming it to be made of diamonds and rubies despite the fact that the packaging clearly states that it is only made of plastic. Hoarders of the second kind may have a pantry filled with unconsumed food well past their expiration dates and still refuse to have then discarded. Soon the place would have infestations. Hoarders of the third kind collect things as a hobby. These collections would oftentimes include old clothes, rusty and broken tools and others.

Compulsive hoarding may be associated with a lot of factors. Some of these factors would include heredity, abnormalities in brain development, family experiences and stress. Up to 85% of compulsive hoarders have family members who are likewise associated with the same disorder. Abnormalities in brain development could also lead to compulsive hoarding. Studies reveal that compulsive hoarding may begin after surgeries or injuries to the brain.

According to a particular research, compulsive hoarders who take part in the study have an average age of 50.  Teenage years are the identified age of the onset of the disorder. However, during these years the disorder can be quite difficult to distinguish as the person involved could see nothing wrong with what he or she is doing. Although the onset of the disorder is at an earlier age, the occurrence could happen at a later time in life after an illness related to the brain, a painful experience in life or after bouts of depression.

A person experiencing symptoms of this disorder should seek professional help as soon as possible. Early detection could correct it. If left untreated, this disorder could worsen and become potentially dangerous.

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