Hoarding is a combination of compulsions and behaviors whereby a person gathers, collects, or stores certain items. In evolution, hoarding serves an adaptive purpose as animals hoard scarce food items, but maladaptive hoarding refers to the behavior taking control of a person’s life. Hoarding can cause financial strain, stress on relationships, and sanitation concerns.
- Difficulty throwing items away
- Saving items that have little value (papers, garbage, clothing, etc.)
- Anxiety about items being thrown away
- Difficulty staying organized
- Intrusive thoughts about possessions
- Social isolation
- Financial ruin
- Denial of the problem
- Embarrassment about letting people into the home
Some hoarders believe the items they save have value or will have value in the future. Sometimes this value can be psychological, as in the case of sentimental value or emotional significance. The person will feel a sense of security and safety when engaging in the behavior and will experience anxiety if forced to stop.
A hoarder likely will not recognize their behavior as troublesome, but a close friend or family member is often the one to suggest treatment. Hoarders will not want people to see how they live and will have trouble forming relationships because of their need to hoard, so social isolation is common. A therapist will discuss the hoarder’s problem and learn how the client uses hoarding as a means of control and anxiety reduction. The therapist will gently challenge this thought process and help the hoarder to take steps to stop hoarding, reduce their clutter, and get their life headed in a desired direction.