Hoarding disorder is characterized by persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions due to a perceived need to save them. Those suffering from the disorder often experience distress at the thought of getting rid of items, leading to an excessive accumulation of items, regardless of value, that congests and clutters living areas. While the reasons for hoarding are not the same for everyone, it can cause significant distress and impairment in social, occupational, and other important areas of functioning.
According to the American Psychiatric Association, "Hoarding disorder occurs in an estimated 2 to 6 percent of the population and often leads to substantial distress and problems functioning." The common reasons for hoarding include:
One of the most common reasons for hoarding is trauma. Many hoarders have experienced some form of trauma or loss in their lives, which has led them to find comfort in accumulating possessions. The hoarded items may hold sentimental value for the individual, reminding them of happier times or loved ones lost. Alternatively, they may fear a repeat of their traumatic event and hoard items as a way to protect themselves.
Another common reason for hoarding is anxiety and OCD. Hoarders may experience high levels of anxiety when faced with the prospect of throwing away their possessions. They may have obsessive thoughts or fears about discarding things and feel compelled to collect more and more items to control their anxiety. Interestingly, hoarding can also be a symptom of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), a mental health condition that causes individuals to experience unwanted, intrusive thoughts that lead to repetitive behaviors and compulsions.
Perfectionism is also a common reason for hoarding. Hoarders may be perfectionists who struggle with the idea of disposing of anything they perceive as potentially useful or valuable. They may worry that they'll need the item someday, or that the item will be costly to replace if it's thrown away. In some cases, perfectionism can be an attempt to avoid feelings of shame or failure that may arise from not maintaining an orderly home or workplace.
Depression is one of the most common reasons for hoarding. Individuals may feel overwhelmed and unable to take care of themselves, which leads them to neglect their environment. Depression can also make it hard to make decisions or take action, which can lead to hoarding behaviors.
A family history of hoarding is also a contributing factor. Studies suggest that genetics can play a role in hoarding behaviors, and growing up in a household where hoarding is present can make individuals more likely to develop hoarding tendencies. Children who grow up in homes with hoarders may not learn how to organize or handle possessions in a healthy way, which can make them more prone to hoarding as adults.
There are many reasons for hoarding, and it's a condition that requires empathy and understanding to overcome. Hoarding can be a difficult and isolating condition, but it is treatable. Identifying the underlying reasons for hoarding is the first step towards recovery.
If you or a loved one is struggling with hoarding, Bio-One offers professional hoarding remediation services. Our highly trained team is equipped to handle any hoarding situation with compassion and discretion. Don't hesitate to call if you or someone you know is struggling with clutter or any form of hazardous environment!