Compulsive hoarding is considered a part of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). OCD is a psychological condition, characterized by persistent thoughts and feelings which is accompanied by abnormal and repetitive behavior and actions. However, some researchers also consider compulsive hoarding to be a distinct disorder on its own.
As the name suggests, compulsive hoarding is an obsessive habit of gathering and storing large number of things which may or may not be useful. People suffering from this disorder have a difficulty in discarding things that have no value. It should be noted that compulsive hoarding and collecting things are two different things.
Collecting particular things as a passion or hobby is not considered a disorder. Compulsive hoarding is a complex disorder, that has an adverse effect on the overall life of the person.
People suffering from this disorder have an inability to decide whether a certain thing is useful to them or not, whether it should be kept or thrown away. They believe that things will always be required in future. Secondly, they are very attached to their possessions and have a difficulty in giving them away.
Thirdly, they often claim that things have aesthetic or emotional value, and hence, cannot be discarded. These beliefs lead to excessive accumulation of things, cluttering, etc.
However, it is difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of this disorder. Genetics (having a history of the disorder in the family), depression, OCD, painful experience in the childhood, etc., are believed to cause compulsive hoarding disorder.
- Accumulating a number of possessions and hoarding them.
- Filling every available space at home or workplace with objects or things.
- Shopping excessively, constantly buying stuff that is not urgently needed, i.e., for future use.
- Total inability to organize and discard things.
- Constantly retrieving things from trash.
- Hoarding broken, torn and useless things.
- Collecting things that others may perceive as worthless (old magazines, newspapers, flyers, etc.).
- Obsessively possessive about their possessions. May not allow others to touch or even see their possessions.
- Being suspicious of others or living a life of a recluse.
- Being stressed and anxious when letting go of their possessions.
As years pass, the hoarding reaches to such a level that the room and later the entire apartment is filled with clutter, making it very difficult to even move around. In one rare case, it was found that a compulsive hoarder had rented a new apartment as he did not find space to store things in his own apartment (it was already full of multitude of things).
It is also dangerous if a person has a disorder of hoarding animals as it can be equally life-threatening to the person as well as the animal. In severe cases, hoarding can have a serious effect on one's life. People suffering from disorder have problematic relationships, as others cannot adjust to their behavior and vice versa.
It can also lead to embarrassment in public. They are recluse, often living in isolation, and having a difficulty in coping up with their life like other people. Most of the people suffering from disorder also suffer from other disorders like anxiety, depression, etc.
Similar to many other psychological disorders, compulsive hoarders do not realize or may not believe that they suffer from a disorder. When they are told, they belie it as they think that hoarding is useful and harmless.
Therefore, treating compulsive hoarding disorder is very difficult as the person is very reluctant to undergo treatment. Family and friends should support and motivate the person to undergo treatment and therapy.
The cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is an effective treatment method that can help. Group therapies, relaxation techniques, etc., can help manage the symptoms to a great extent. Certain anti-depressant drugs are also effective. Improving decision-making skills, slowly learning to declutter will reduce the stress and anxiety.
It is very important for the person to realize and understand that he is suffering from obsessive compulsive hoarding problem. Remember, the cooperation and support of the family and friends of the person can be very helpful in controlling the disorder.
Disclaimer: The given information is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.