Some hoarders feel the need to hoard information, many of them planning on going through it sometime in the future or using it for reference as needed. This leads to hoarding behavior such as refusing to throw out old newspapers, magazines, books, or even junk mail. After all, even junk mail may contain a credit card offer or some other enticement that the hoarder would take advantage of - if they would only get around to sorting through it all. These types of hoarders may even continue to subscribe to dozens of magazines, just to be able to accumulate information. Telling these hoarders that they can get this information another way, such as looking it up on the internet, often does not help.
Hoarding - Just in Case
Many people who hoard say that their hoarding behavior is important - just in case. They save boxes and boxes of their children’s old clothes, piling them in bathtubs and on the living room couch, just in case they have a younger child who will fit into them one day. They save broken gadgets and toys, old nonperishable foods, decades of bills and credit card statements, just in case they will be useful one day. They may also walk through stores throwing things into their shopping carts that they “might need” on some unknown day in the future. Of course, if they ever did need them, they probably wouldn’t be able to find them under all of the accumulated clutter.
Emotional hoarders may seem to hoard everything, but their hoarding behavior truly stems from treating each item as holding emotional value. For example, they might keep old children’s clothes to remember each day of their child’s youth. They might keep old receipts to remember how they felt after going to a specific restaurant, or how beautiful the day felt when they came out of the grocery store. They attach emotional significance to seemingly unimportant objects, and even if they don’t remember the significance of each one, they feel that they are important to keep because at one time they had significance.
Hoarding in the Elderly
Hoarders are more likely to be older men and women, rather than younger ones, and hoarding can become increasingly more severe throughout a person’s lifespan. Sometimes, hoarding tendencies in the elderly can be caused or exacerbated by mental problems, such as dementia or psychiatric diagnoses. Hoarding can be extremely dangerous for the elderly. For example, they might trip on piles of old newspapers or other debris, causing them to break a hip or sustain other injuries. Living under unsanitary conditions (e.g., unable to use the sink or the bathtub due to hoarding) can also be more dangerous for the elderly, who often have weaker immune systems than their younger counterparts.
Sure, some people own a lot of animals, but being an animal hoarder entails a lot more than that. Animal hoarding behavior includes not just accumulating many animals, but also failing to give them sufficient care, neglecting their needs even when they begin to deteriorate, and letting their living quarters slowly fall into disrepair due to old feces, rotten food, and other waste products. Animal hoarders often were neglected during childhood, suffered from childhood trauma or child abuse, and/or had unstable parents.
This post is part of the series: OCD Symptoms: Hoarding
Hoarding is one of the OCD symptoms that is hardest to treat, but there are treatment options available. This series includes articles on these treatment options, as well as articles about specific aspects that affect hoarders and those around them.