Compulsive Hoarding Linked to OCD

You have probably heard of cases on the news where houses have been condemned because the owners had so much junk in their homes that they could no longer live there. Piles of newspapers, magazines and things that they just could not throw away were piled everywhere and even included food items. This type of behavior is called hoarding.

Hoarding is attaining possession of items as well as the inability to get rid of them, even though other people do not see the value in them. While hoarding manifests itself in a variety of disorders of the psychiatric variety, this hoarding instinct is prevalent in people who have obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

Hoarders Anxiety

While OCD encompasses quite a few types of obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors, hoarding is thought to be one of the major types. People who hoard things show great distress at the thought of getting rid of these items and may form some type of impairment that affects their functioning skills. Hoarders also exhibit signs of avoidance, procrastination and even the inability to make a decision.

Diagnosis

Some people confuse collecting things from compulsive hoarding. Therefore, if you want to put some type of OCD hoarding label on someone, they would have to show signs of these things:

    1. Hoarders constantly collect things and then do not have the ability to throw them away. In fact, they become quite distressed at the thought. Many items have no intrinsic value (at least to other people) but hoarders feel that they will “need” those things some day and form an unnatural emotional attachment to them.

    2. The living areas of hoarders become quite cluttered and eventually prevent normal activities that are expected in those living areas. For example, some hoarders pile so many things in their bedrooms that they can no longer sleep there and end up on the couch. Some pack their homes so much that they end up pitching a tent in their yard because they have no where to sleep anymore. Sometimes, kitchens are no longer functional because things are stored on all the countertops, inside the cabinets and even the stove and dishwasher.

    3. Hoarders eventually become social recluses because they cannot have people over to their homes and they are so obsessed with their things that they spend hours moving stacks around and take the longest time to perform small chores like washing clothes. Many hoarders do have jobs and seem normal from the outside façade. However, because indecision and procrastination are two of the by-products of hoarding, these people take a long time to do their jobs and often stay late or go in early to complete tasks and to mask their OCD issues.

While hoarding is considered part of the OCD family, the medication and cognitive behavior therapy used successfully for other OCD sufferers will likely not work for hoarders. It takes a special approach of therapy in order to even make a dent in the psyche of a hoarder. Because the behavior patterns are different as well as the functional impairments, treating hoarders is often a more difficult task, but it can be treated with success.