Hoarding is one of those things that we hear about occasionally on the news, usually in tandem with some kind of tragedy involving animal care, fires, or seclusive behavior. What we don't often hear is that hoarding is actually much more common than most would think and it takes many forms - some not necessarily harmful, others very harmful.
We've talked about hoarding before here on Brainphysics, of course, explaining its official name and definition as OCD Hoarding. Here's a quick summary:
OCD hoarding is considered a type of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). This behavior, also called "pathological collecting," involves acquiring and saving many objects that may seem useless or of no value. ... Hoarding can be a symptom of problems other than OCD, including mental decline in the elderly, mental retardation, schizophrenia, or even eating disorders (hoarding food). However, hoarding appears to be most common in the context of OCD, and it is found in about a quarter of the people diagnosed with the disorder.
Now that we know what hoarding is, let's look at how it affects the person whose obsessions have driven them to hoard things.
Hoarding and Social Life
Those who hoard things often commit significant amounts of time and energy to the process of finding and acquiring objects to store. Many will stretch their budgets or even go without basic life requirements in order to satisfy their need to obtain more objects.
Interestingly, these people can appear to have good social lives as they often frequent the garage sales and flea markets of their communities and are seen coming and going regularly as they hunt for more acquisitions.
Quite often, however, those trips are purely to gain new items and little real social interaction takes place. Many times, family and friends are ignored or marginalized in favor of the hunt and acquisition.
It's not uncommon for those who hoard things to be secretive and embarrassed about their condition and the way it clutters their homes with what others would perceive as junk.
Lack of Intimacy
Diagnosis and reasoning for hoarding can be complex. Many things can contribute to the impetus to hoard, but psychologists agree that a few basic symptoms and past triggers are generally common amongst those who suffer from OCD hoarding.
Usually, the hoarder will have a significant lack of intimacy in their lives - few or no lovers, will have been unmarried at least since the hoarding began, and often had a childhood in which neglect was the norm.
Many hoarders have a fear of being poor or not having objects to prove their self worth. Of course, in our society, people attaching more value than justified to objects is not unusual, but for the person with OCD hoarding, this will be so greatly exaggerated that completely worthless objects will be seen as highly valuable (or "valuable some day").
Finally, those who hoard often have few family connections (sometimes none at all) and often replace those close, long-term ties with the objects they obsess about.
Hoarding is often a serious condition that can be a danger to both the person affected as well as their families and friends. Hoarding can be a fire hazard, health hazard, and worse. It should be treated by a professional, who will usually recommend behavioral therapies as medications have been found to be generally ineffective for this problem.