The Characteristics of a Compulsive Hoarder

Compulsive hoarding has been identified as a sub-type of obsessive-compulsive disorders.  The excessive buying and accumulation of things that are not necessarily consumed can become a serious problem if not controlled.  A person becomes a compulsive buyer when he or she continues to buy and collect things on an impulse.

Why Hoarders Hoard

Compulsive hoarders are driven by the desire or urge to buy or collect things.  Their excessive behaviour comes from many factors.  Due to the multiple factors, some compulsive hoarders may not have the same characteristics or traits as the others.  The characteristics of compulsive hoarders are shaped by biological, psychological and sociological conditions.

Fear and Anxiety

A hoarder experiences compulsions to buy or accumulate things because this will relieve the anxiety and uneasiness caused by the urge.  According to scientists, the act of hoarding is associated with the fear of loss.  Compulsive hoarders may have experienced some form of profound loss such as a death of a family member or friend.  Some hoarders may have been through a traumatic experience which may trigger a particular worry or fear.

One of the characteristics of hoarders is obsessing over the fear.  They react to this obsession by acquiring more and more items.  Other researchers also believe that hoarders behave the way they do because they are perfectionists.  They may be socially isolated which causes them to have a strong emotional attachment to the things they have.  When hoarders think about throwing away the things that they hoard, they start to feel anxious and stressed out.  The only way to relieve what they feel is to go out and look for things to hoard.  This can become a vicious cycle if not controlled the proper way.

Perceived Value or Worth

A hoarder also believes that what he or she collects will become valuable or useful someday.  A hoarder does not discard things for fear of losing out on a future opportunity.  If hoarders let go of the things they hoard, they worry about not having the things in their possession.


A hoarder continues to struggle with the decision to throw or give away things that are no longer necessary.  Hoarders feel the need to save things and avoid getting tasks done such as organizing.  They also tend to procrastinate.  A hoarder finds it difficult to make decisions and asserts perfectionism.

 Getting Help

According to more research studies, compulsive hoarder has a strong genetic link.  If an individual has a family member who has a hoarding problem, there is a likely chance that the same individual will have the same compulsion later on in life.  However, genes are not the only explanation as to why an individual hoards.

To correct the hoarding problem in its early stages, family members and friends should be able to recognize the symptoms of compulsive hoarding.  Hoarders are in denial of their actions and as a consequence, they tend to ignore the risks involved with compulsive hoarding.  Hoarding can present serious health hazards if there is no intervention from the outside.  A compulsive hoarder can be treated through therapeutic sessions with a professional and the support of loved ones.

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  1. Rachel Papworth @greenandtidy says:

    I help people all over the world declutter and create homes they love and I know how distressing this condition is both to the sufferers themselves and their loved ones.

    There is a move to have a new diagnosis of Hoarding Disorder included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, to be published in 2013. This would be likely to focus and improve help and support for people with the condition.

  2. michelle says:

    I would be very grateful if you could forward me this information on hoarders as we have a family member who is suffering with this problem and from reading the information i can relate to alot of it with her. She is in denial, refuses to get help, family are pushing her but she just explodes. He stress levels are constantly up and down, shes tearful and shows signs of depression. Has excuses for everything, is never at home and is starting to fill other members of the family’s home with her items. I believe shortly she will just break down further.

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