Hoarding is "the persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions" according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. While common items that are hoarded include newspapers, magazines, household supplies, food and clothing, a hoarder might have trouble getting rid of any item. The value of the item does not matter. Some experts believe between 6 and 15 million people in the United States are hoarders.
The following are 10 things you might not know about hoarding:
Hoarding was previously considered a type of obsessive compulsive disorder** (OCD),** however, the most recent Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-V), lists Hoarding Disorder as separate from OCD. Approximately 20 percent of those with OCD have hoarding behavior.
People hoard for a number of different reasons****. They might believe the items are valuable or useful or will be in the future, they might feel sentimental about the items or believe it is irreplaceable, they might not be able to decide what to do with it and feel it is best just to keep it. Some people hoard because they can’t pass up a sale and then can’t throw it away because it was too good of a deal. Having to get rid of an item causes great distress or anxiety.
Someone can have a hoarding disorder without having any other mental health diagnosis. It is most commonly associated with OCD, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and depression. It is sometimes seen in those with dementia.
**One common problem for hoarders is the lack of living space. **Hoarded items can take over living spaces, leaving little room to move around. The enormous amount of hoarded items can be a fire hazard.
**People who hoard are often embarrassed about hoarding and don’t want others to come into their home. **This can include relatives and repair technicians. They might live in sub-standard housing (no heat, no appliances) rather than allow someone in to their home.
Many people who are hoarders are perfectionists****. They worry about making the wrong decision - whether to throw something out or not. They become paralyzed with indecision and instead opt to keep everything, therefore they don’t need to worry about throwing something out and then regretting it later.
**Hoarding can cause difficulties with family members. **Household members who do not hoard might be angry or resentful of the overflow of items in the house. Many people who are hoarders live alone.
Hoarding is different than collecting. When someone collects items, they are proud of the items and often show them off. Hoarders keep items but are not interested in showing them off.
Hoarding can begin in childhood or in the teen years, however, it often does not reach severity until much later in adulthood.
Medications used for anxiety** are not as effective in treating hoarding. **Cognitive behavioral therapy has been found to be more effective than medication in treating hoarding. It is even more effective if the therapist works with the hoarder in their home, developing skills and habits to declutter their home.
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Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.