Compulsive hoarding includes ALL three of the following:
Hoarding behaviors can begin as early as the teenage years, although the average age of a person seeking treatment for hoarding is about 50. Hoarders often endure a lifelong struggle with hoarding. They tend to live alone and may have a family member with the problem. It seems likely that serious hoarding problems are present in at least 1 in 50 people, but they may be present in as many as 1 in 20.
Compulsive hoarding was commonly considered to be a type of OCD. Some estimate that as many as 1 in 4 people with OCD also have compulsive hoarding. Recent research suggests that nearly 1 in 5 compulsive hoarders have non-hoarding OCD symptoms. Compulsive hoarding is also considered a feature of obsessive compulsive personality disorder (OCPD) and may develop along with other mental illnesses, such as dementia and schizophrenia.
Most often, people hoard common possessions, such as paper (e.g., mail, newspapers), books, clothing and containers (e.g., boxes, paper and plastic bags). Some people hoard garbage or rotten food. More rarely, people hoard animals or human waste products. Often the items collected are valuable but far in excess of what can reasonably be used.
People who hoard may call themselves “thrifty.” They may also think that their behavior is due to having lived through a period of poverty or hardship during their lives. Research to date has not supported this idea. However, experiencing a traumatic event or serious loss, such as the death of a spouse or parent, may lead to a worsening of hoarding behavior.
Yes, compulsive hoarding can be treated. Unfortunately it has not responded well to the usual treatments that work for OCD. Strategies to treat hoarding include:
Attempts by family and friends to help with de-cluttering may not be well received by the person who hoards. It is helpful to keep in mind:
No. Attempts to “clean out” the homes of people who hoard without treating the underlying problem usually fail. Families and community agencies may spend many hours and thousands of dollars clearing a home only to find that the problem recurs, often within just a few months. Hoarders whose homes are cleared without their consent often experience extreme distress and may become further attached to their possessions. This may lead to their refusal of future help.
When a person seems willing to talk about a hoarding problem, follow these guidelines:
Source: International OCD Foundation