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Why do some people hoard?

October 13, 2014
by Charlene Marietti
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Hoarding is a new word. We don’t apply it to our hunter-gatherer ancestors who accumulated food for times when food was less available. And we don’t apply it to the annual fall ritual of many families who dry, preserve and store food to sustain the family over winter.

So when does accumulating food and other stuff change from good planning and preparation to be a serious problem?

Validated as a DSM 5 certified disorder, compulsive collecting and hoarding is a recent development in the evolution of human behavior. Origins of the behavior are little understood and since most hoarders pose little danger to anyone other than themselves, they are largely seen as ‘odd ducks’ that make for 'can you believe' fodder for reality shows. But there remain questions of ‘why’ as well as what this means to the population at large. And, ultimately, how can these people be treated?

Nicole Pemberton of the SUNY New Paltz Evolutionary Psychology Lab in her blog, “How Much Is Too Much?”reasons that hoarding is a result of an evolutionary mismatch. And it has not contributed to any degree of happiness among contemporary hoarders. “The emotional duress, social isolation and clutter that it causes in an immediate environment can be harmful to our survival and to our well-being,” she concludes.

Read more about hoarding and its treatment as discussed by Terrence Shulman, JD, LMSW, ACSW, CAADC, CPC and founder of The Shulman Center for Compulsive Theft, Spending and Hoarding at the National Conference on Addiction Disorders (NCAD) in St. Louis. 

Read Pemberton's blog here.