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Understanding hoarding behavior

June 19, 2012
by Terrence Daryl Shulman, JD, LMSW, ACSW, CAADC, CPC
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Multiple theories exist on the cause of hoarding
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 While pioneers and experts on the subject of hoarding are still unlocking the puzzle of what causes this compulsive behavior that is in today’s media spotlight, it is believed that hoarding has both genetic and socialized components (nature and nurture).

Hoarding has been related to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and anxiety disorder, but it is distinct and will have its own classification in the forthcoming DSM-5. Hoarding involves not only an excessive accumulation of objects, but especially an excessive difficulty discarding them—to the point where this causes distress for the hoarder, problems in his/her relationships, impaired movement/use of space, and other consequences.

Theories about what causes hoarding include:

·        Getting a high from accumulating, and feeling pain/anxiety when discarding.

·        Reaction to change, trauma, loss, stress—control over little things.

·        Social anxiety/phobia; isolation/protection.

·        Shaky sense of self and over-identification with objects.

·        Problems with attention/organization.

·        Problems processing information/categorizing.

·        Problems making decisions.

·        Problems with memory (too much/too little).