Hoarding is a type of behavior in which a person acquires a large number of items that he or she does not throw out. Most of the times, these items seem usually have little or no value to others and clutters the owner’s home making it unsuitable space for living. Hoarding will also cause significant distress on the owner’s social life and work.
It is not known clearly what causes hoarding. However, the condition is believed to affect individuals with a family history of hoarding; thus genetics and upbringing plays an important role. Individuals who have undergone stressful live events may also start hoarding, just like those with a history of alcohol dependence and those that are socially withdrawn.
Hoarding is not necessarily compulsive because it has also been seen in people suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders such as dementia, eating disorder, psychotic behaviour and mental retardation. However, it has been mostly associated with OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). While a high percentage of people with OCD have compulsive hoarding, it is not known whether the condition is part of the OCD or if it is whether a separate disorder common to individuals suffering from OCD.
Some of the typical behaviours portrayed by people suffering from compulsive behaviour include:
- Keeping more items that they need or that can be used.
- Acquiring more items, including trash.
- Avoiding getting rid of items.
- Inability to make decisions.
- Slowness or lateness in completing tasks.
- Inability to arrange or organize items.
- Excessive attachment to possessions and discomfort in letting other people borrow or touch their stuff.
Most people who hoard usually save things if they believe that these things will be used at a future date or will have emotional significance. The presence of these things around them gives them some sort of security.
It is important not confuse hoarding with collecting because collectors usually look out for specific things to keep while hoarders do choose random things that will be stored haphazardly in the home.
Hoarding comes with a number of complications. For starters, it will give rise to unsanitary conditions thus posing health risks, increase risks of falling, create family conflicts, lead to poor work performance as well as loneliness and social isolation. Hoarding is also a fire hazard.
One of the first symptoms of hoarding is clutter and difficulty in discarding things. The sign is usually noted during teenage years, and as the individual grows older, the more things she/he will acquire. The symptoms are quite severe in middle age and may be difficult to treat. It is therefore recommended that the victim or loved ones should seek help as soon as possible. It is also important to note that most hoarders do not see hoarding as a problem. It is usually a family member or a friend who will notice or be uncomfortable with the clutter. For family members, it is important that they reassure their loved one about the status of their stuff in their homes so that they can consider the possibility of seeking and getting treatment.