Hoarding is characterized by the acquisition of too many items and by difficulty discarding them. This compulsive acquisition results in major impairment to the sufferer due to the massive amount of clutter that physically builds up around the home, and may include other venues, such as the office or car.
Hoarding can be very embarrassing and distressing. It frequently develops into a vicious cycle where individuals almost literally become trapped in their own homes. Excess clutter can result in difficulty moving around within the home and decreased home utility. Sometimes hoarders will fill storage units once their homes and garages become filled. Hoarding can even take over a person's ability to function normally with computer and other media equipment (e.g. ten drives of storage on a home computer).
Compulsive hoarding is not the same as hobbies and saving objects of monetary or sentimental value. Hoarders may carefully read junk mail, collect piles of old newspapers, sort through garbage to "rescue" useful things, and collect useless objects or free items.
Common things that may be hoarded:
Since hoarders can't decide what to keep or how to organize it, they end up keeping everything. They may plan to clean up, but the impossible desire to clean and organize everything perfectly only results in procrastination. Thus the hoarder will make excuses to avoid dealing with the overwhelming mess.
Hoarders may also experience anxiety and depression, poor insight, and social problems (e.g., social isolation). A distinctive feature of hoarders is excessive emotional attachment to possessions, difficulties in categorizing and organizing, and concerns about not being about to remember important things. Worries experienced by hoarders include fears of losing items which may be needed later. Most hoarders have exaggerated beliefs about the importance of items, and are thus excessively attached to their possessions.
Hoarders are not to be confused with collectors. Hoarders are not people who simply like to collect things, such as baseball cards or stamps. Some items may be valuable but most of the hoarded items are not particularly valuable. Hoarding is not simply saving sentimental objects, although the hoarder may attach excessive sentiments to items.
There are some important differences between hoarding and OCD, which have lead researchers to conclude that hoarding is actually a separate disorder. Unlike individuals with other OCD symptoms, hoarders tend to have fewer intrusive thoughts about possessions and fewer urges to perform rituals. Distress may only becomes prominent when faced with the prospect of losing their possessions. Due to these differences, hoarding has been reclassified as a separate OC spectrum disorder in the DSM-5.
Behavioral Wellness Clinic &
Delaware Valley OCD Clinic
225 Wilmington West Chester Pike
Chadds Ford, PA 19317
Phone: (484) 324-2749
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Clinical Director: Monnica Williams, PhD
Office Manager: Jasmine Terwilliger
Business Manager: Matthew Jahn