The Causes & Symptoms of Hoarding

Hoarding is associated with four disorders:

1. Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)

Experts believe that the most common cause of hoarding is OCD. Approximately 3% of the general population has OCD. However, most of these individuals are not hoarders. OCD is a complex and broad spectrum disorder. Individuals may exhibit mild, moderate of significant symptoms.

There are four subtypes of OCD:

  • Pure obsessions
  • Contamination and checking
  • Symmetry/ordering/arranging
  • Hoarding/saving/collecting

Hoarders engage in saving/collecting behavior in order to combat obsessive doubts and anxiety-provoking thoughts. Most hoarders experience intense anxiety or distress when attempting to discard, or even think of discarding, what others may view as useless objects.

Certain medications may help individuals with OCD manage symptoms; however, medication has not proven effective for reducing symptoms associated with hoarding.

2. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Adult ADHD – the inability to focus or control impulses – often contributes to hoarding. Like OCD, many people who hoard have ADHD, but most individuals with ADHD are not hoarders.

3. Psychosis

Individuals with paranoid schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are often hoarders. However, most hoarders do not have schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.

4. Dementia

Approximately 20% of people with dementia exhibit some degree of hoarding behavior. Hoarding is common in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, as individuals attempt to keep things in sight for fear of forgetting where they are. As the disease progresses, hoarding behavior may increase as individuals seek to gather together familiar objects. Although 20% of people with dementia hoard, most hoarders do not have dementia.

Hoarders come from all walks of life. Many are highly intelligent and successful.

This material excerpted from Hoarding 101


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