What is the psychology behind hoarding?

The psychology behind hoarding is complex. It is characterized by excessively acquiring, saving, and often storing random items in a haphazard manner that disrupts the normal functioning of household spaces. Research suggests that hoarders believe that such items are useful, will be needed in the future, are a good bargain, or are unique and irreplaceable. They also may attach sentimental value to otherwise useless items.

Hoarding is a form of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Experts estimate that 25% of people with OCD are also compulsive holders. Further, most hoarders experience anxiety disorders ranging from mild anxiety to depression. Hoarding also leads to social isolation, which increases their susceptibility to mental disorders. Some people turn to hoarding as a way of dealing with trauma while others use the habit to manage worry, anxiety, and fear.

What is compulsive hoarding? 

According to the OCD National Foundation, compulsive hoarding includes all three of the following: 

  1. A person accumulates and keeps a large number of items, including items that most people consider to be worthless or of little value,

  2. These objects clutter homes and prevent the person from using their living space as intended, and

  3. These objects create discomfort or issues in day-to-day activities. 

What is the difference between hoarding and collecting?

People who hoard seldom like to show off their belongings, which are frequently in disarray. When it comes to collecting, most people are proud of their collections and keep them neatly organized. 

 What are the signs of compulsive hoarding? 

  • Having trouble getting rid of things.

  • A lot of clutter at home, in the car, or in other places (such storage units) that makes it difficult to navigate in their own home.

  • Feeling overwhelmed by the amount of things that have ‘taken over' their home

  • Losing important items such as money among the clutter.

Can hoarding be treated?

Yes, hoarding can be treated. While it isn't the easiest disorder to treat, new types of cognitive-behavior therapy (CBT) have been promising.

Need help finding a therapist with experience treating hoarding? Check out Monarch. Monarch is an online mental health directory and scheduling platform available to use free-of-charge. The website allows you to search for therapists by name, insurance, location, specialty, in this case hoarding, and more. Based on the selection criteria, Monarch provides patients with a list of therapists.

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