Sunday, May 23, 2010


Alexandra Matthews, Ph.D.

What is Hoarding?

According to Frost and Hartl (1996) Compulsive Hoarding Syndrome consists of:

1. The acquisition of, and failure to discard a large number of possessions that appear to be useless or of limited value
2. Living spaces are sufficiently cluttered so as to preclude activities for which those spaces were designed.
3. Significant distress or impairment in functioning caused by the hoarding

Three Basic Components of Hoarding

Acquisition: Compulsive buying, acquiring free things.
Saving: Inability to discard anything.
Clutter: Clutter is the end result of acquisition and saving. It is a symptom of the disorder. Clutter is not the problem, so simply cleaning out the clutter/hoard will not solve the problem.

Hoarding can pose a health risk to the hoarder. It can also pose a public health risk due to infestation (rats, roaches), and a risk to public employees who sometimes must enter the home to help the resident.

Any item can be hoarded. Some of the most commonly hoarded items are animals, reading materials (books, newspapers, magazines), clothing, containers (bags, boxes, milk cartons, bottles, cans, etc.), mail, notes and lists, personal papers (old school papers, writing samples, etc.)

Hoarding is a brain disorder. Hoarding is genetic. It is not simply a bad habit that can be easily overcome.

Compulsive hoarding is most commonly associated with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). 18-42% of all OCD patients have hoarding and saving compulsions. However, 33% or hoarders do not have OCD.

Other mental disorders often co-occur with Compulsive Hoarding. Some of the most common are: Social Anxiety; Anxiety; Depression; Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD); Impulse Control Disorders (compulsive shopping, gambling, etc.) stroke, neurodegenerative disorders (Alzheimer’s, etc.); eating disorders; Autistic Spectrum Disorders; mental retardation; schizophrenia; Tourette’s; compulsive hair pulling...."

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