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obsessive compulsive disorder
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traumatic time
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emotional level
The Causes Of Hoarding: They Run Deeper Than You Think
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Hoarding has been officially added to the list of disorders in medical dictionaries. Some medical professionals view hoarding as a type of obsessive-compulsive disorder while others see it as an emotional dysfunction, some say it should be in a category all its own in the world of mental health. Some even speculate that hoarding is genetic or hereditary. All agree that it is a disorder, however, and nowadays there is support for hoarders and their families.

The Causes of Hoarding

A person who excessively collects things may need to maintain control over the things they hold dear whether it has any innate value to others or not. This is especially necessary to the hoarded who may not have control of other parts of their lives.

While some people started hoarding as children, many became hoarders after a particularly traumatic event in their lives: the loss of a loved one or other life-shattering event. When someone close to a person dies, they sometimes feel a sense of loss so profoundly that they turn to hoarding -- they become unwilling to lose anything else in their lives. And trying to take things from them creates a deep impact on an emotional level. This may seem irrational to those around them.

Objects are easier to deal with than people. An inanimate object does not criticize, judge, or otherwise add to anxiety or depression the way people often do. Some people who hoard turn to hoarding pets that are easier to deal with also as they offer unconditional affection and companionship.

Very often a hoarder creates sentimental attachments to items they hoard. These possessions may help them remember happier times in their lives. This attachment may start to include new possessions as well due to the feeling of need to possess more objects which gives them a sense of security. Listen carefully and you may hear the hoarder say, “Hand me my paper towels,” or the like when the object does not warrant such distinction. “Hand me the paper towels” suffices, but not to the hoarder. They have a compulsive need to hold ownership over the things around them.

Another reason people hoard is that the things they collect seem too good to discard. This can actually be a two-fold causality. The hoarder finds it difficult to simply discard a perfectly good object just because they have no use for it. The other side of this coin is that hoarders keep going out and getting more. For example, I know an elderly woman who still drives and loves to go to thrift shops. She has a keen eye for picking out clothing that is in good condition, and despite the fact that she may have had an item for years and never have worn it, she states that it is still good and looks dismayed if it is suggested that she get rid of it. This is especially true if the item, whether it's clothing or some other item, has aesthetic value to the hoarder.

Another cause may be a control issue. If the person does not feel they have control over their lives in other ways -- say an elderly person living in another person’s home -- then they may become passive aggressive. This is a way to maintain control of their surroundings if the other people are compulsively neat or demanding that other family members must comply with their lifestyle. The hoarder feels a loss of control in these situations and hoarding is an outlet to get control back.

Another cause may be boredom. Hoarding is the outcome of just wanting something to do. So they buy things. They thrift shop or catalog shop or get out to any of a number of stores they frequent. Then they buy things they don’t need and will likely never use. It's their hobby or pastime. It doesn’t help that advertisers create ads with alluring hype that convinces them they can’t live a comfortable life without their products.

And, lastly, a person who hoards may be challenged by decision-making. They simply cannot decide what to do with all their belongings. They have difficulty processing information and categorizing the things in their lives. They want to remember where their possessions are or what they have and keeping these things out in the open seems the best way to do this.

Hoarders have a difficulty time maintaining organized living spaces. Their environment is typically in chaos and often a health and/or safety risk. It’s difficult for a hoarder to let go of their possessions and clear out the clutter in their lives. Very often it causes strife with other family members. I doubt the hoarder intentionally causes rifts in relationships or chaos in their homes. It goes deeper than just collecting what to others is considered junk. Hoarding is an expression of underlying emotional distress.


Street Talk

Good article, AnnMarie. I had never heard of the psychological reasons behind hoarding and this is very interesting. It is easy to see now why so many people have this emotional problem.

Reply
  about 7 years ago
  

Thanks Gale, it's a very difficult problem to overcome for the hoarder and very frustrating for those who want to help.

Reply
  about 7 years ago
  

Now that you mention it, Joan, I know a few 'frugal' people who hoard too. And you're right, it does go deeper with them. I 'collected' things when I was younger, and would probably still have lots right now if not for a great solution to the problem...you learn to let go when you move as often as I have! Then again, I didn't have trouble letting go - I held yard sales before the earlier moves and later just stopped accumulating so much stuff I didn't have room for. Made the moves much easier. I still have a teapot collection - 12 down from more than 30 - SOLD! And too many pens I can never find when I need them :)

Reply
  about 7 years ago
Joan S  

I think it is a form of OCD. It's very strange what hoarders want to collect. Knew one guy who collects "used" wrapping paper. When at a birthday party, he rolls up the gift wrap and brings it home with him. At first, I thought he was frugal, but now, I think it goes deeper.

Reply
  about 7 years ago
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