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What are the Signs and Symptoms of Hoarding?

written by: Roohi Khan • edited by: Jacqueline Chinappi • updated: 8/16/2010

Are you looking for information on the signs and symptoms of hoarding to help identify if a loved one needs help for this mental illness? Read this article to find out if someone you know needs help for his or her behavior of excessive collection of items.

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    What is hoarding?

    If you are looking for information on the symptoms of hoarding, then you have come to the right place. Also known as compulsive hoarding, it is characterized by excessive collection of items and not being able to discard them even when they are of little value to the individual. Researchers have not been able to clearly classify this mental health problem as yet. However, currently it is considered as a subtype of obsessive compulsive disorder. Here is a brief look at the common symptoms of compulsive hoarding.

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    Signs and Symptoms of Compulsive Hoarding

    Compulsive hoarding affects the behavior, emotions, and thoughts of the individual concerned. People with this mental health problem keep on collecting items because they think that they may need them in the future or they have an emotional attachment to them. Here are some of the common symptoms of compulsive hoarding:

    • People with compulsive hoarding have stuff stacked everywhere in the house and the clutter often spreads outdoors.
    • The living space of the individual is filled with clutter.
    • Even if an item is of little value, the person is not able to discard it. This includes broken and irreparable things. Hoarders usually have a fear of accidentally throwing away something important.
    • Visiting every yard or garage sale and buying excessive quantities of things that they may not need.
    • People with compulsive hoarding may save excessive amounts of items for the use of others or for the purposes of recycling.
    • Collecting items that are not required or are useless is a common sign of hoarding.
    • Stacks of newspapers, magazines, or mails are often piled up in the house.
    • Trash or food containers are not thrown away.
    • The individual finds it difficult to manage his or her daily activities and has difficulty organizing items.
    • The person keeps moving items from one pile to another, without discarding any of it.
    • Procrastination and trouble making decisions is often seen.
    • Perfectionism is one of the chief characteristics of hoarders.
    • People with compulsive hoarding are attached to their possessions and are not able to form attachments to people.
    • They restrict others from touching or borrowing their possessions.
    • Social interactions are very limited.
    • Animal hoarders may collect hundreds of pets even though they are not able to take good care of them. The animals collected are usually such that can be kept indoors and easily concealed.
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    Treatment of Compulsive Hoarding

    The symptoms of hoarding may range from mild to severe and in some cases may not interfere with one's life at all. If the compulsive hoarding behaviors interfere in daily functioning of the individual, treatment may be required. Treatment for this problem is difficult since experts are not sure which treatment works best and it is also difficult to convince the individual that they need help. If your loved one is showing signs of hoarding, try to find a mental health provider who has some experience with this behavior. Psychotherapy, especially cognitive behavior therapy, can be quite useful for treating this problem. The mental health professional may also prescribe selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), a type of antidepressant.

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    References

    MayoClinic.com: Hoarding

    http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/hoarding/DS00966

    NeuroBehavioral Institute: Hoarding

    http://www.nbiweston.com/conditions.php?id=14

    BrainPhysics.com: Compulsive Hoarding

    http://www.brainphysics.com/hoarding.php