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.