+ Is hoarding a kind of obsessive-compulsive disorder?

Right now, compulsive hoarding is considered by many researchers to be a type of obsessive-compulsive disorder. However, for some people, compulsive hoarding may also be related to:

  • Impulse Control Disorders (such as impulsive buying or stealing)
  • Depression
  • Social Anxiety
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Certain Personality Traits

+ How Common Is Compulsive Hoarding? What Are Its Features?

  • We don't know exactly. Some researchers have guessed that about half of one percent of the population suffers from compulsive hoarding, but the actual number may be much higher.
  • People usually start hoarding during childhood or early adolescence, although the problem usually does not become severe until the person is an adult.
  • Compulsive hoarding may run in families.
  • Many people with compulsive hoarding do not recognize how bad the problem really is; often it is a family member who is most bothered by the clutter.

+ What Causes Compulsive Hoarding?

Compulsive hoarding is thought to result from problems in one or more of these areas:

Information processing. People with compulsive hoarding often have problems such as:

  • Difficulty categorizing their possessions (for example, deciding what is valuable and what is not)
  • Difficulty making decisions about what to do with possessions
  • Trouble remembering where things are (and so they often want to keep everything in sight so they don't forget)

Beliefs about possessions. People with compulsive hoarding often:

  • Feel a strong sense of emotional attachment toward their possessions (for example, an object might be felt to be very special, or a part of them.)
  • Feel a need to stay in control of their possessions (and so they don't want anyone touching or moving their possessions.)
  • Worry about forgetting things (and use their possessions as visual reminders.)

Emotional distress about discarding. People with compulsive hoarding often:

  • Feel very anxious or upset when they have to make a decision about discarding things.
  • Feel distressed when they see something they want and think they can't feel better until they acquire that object.
  • Control their uncomfortable feelings by avoiding making the decision or putting it off until later.

+ Treatment For Compulsive Hoarding

There is no "cure" for compulsive hoarding, meaning there is no treatment that will make the problem go away completely and never come back at all. However, some treatments may help people to manage the symptoms more effectively.

+ Medications

Research studies using antidepressant medications (that increase the level of serotonin activity in the brain) show that some people with compulsive hoarding respond well to these medications, however, many do not. People with compulsive hoarding do not appear to respond as well to medications as do people with other kinds of obsessive-compulsive symptoms.

+ Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a form of counseling that goes beyond "just talking". In this form of treatment, the therapist often visits the person's home and helps them learn how to make decisions and think clearly about their possessions. There have not been as many studies of this kind of treatment, therefore it's hard to say with certainty how effective it is for hoarding. However, the available evidence suggests that cognitive-behavioral therapy is effective for many people with compulsive hoarding, perhaps more so than medications.​