Hoarding is not just curious habit whereby people are reluctant to throw things away, (so called squirrelling), it is actually a form of OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), and in its most chronic state is a seriously debilitating condition that ruins lives.
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Whilst compulsive hoarding is comparatively rare, it does affect as many as one in every two hundred people in the UK. It often has its roots in childhood but does not become a serious disorder until the sufferer reaches adulthood. It is often the case that hoarders may have relatives who also suffer from the same affliction.
A hoarder is someone who has a compulsion, not only to acquire things, (sometimes by theft if necessary), but who also has an extremely strong resistance to discarding anything that he/she acquires. The objects that are hoarded are often useless in practical terms, and are usually completely valueless. The “junk” that is hoarded often includes: mail (opened and unopened), old magazines and newspapers, empty containers (food and non-food), items of clothing, and items that are broken or that are in need of repair.
Hoarders spend lots of time in the pursuit of acquiring more things to add to their hoard, often frequenting car boot sales, jumble sales, and even refuse tips. The internet is also now becoming a more attractive place for acquiring junk as it offers the opportunity to make large purchases many times over whilst at the same time being able to withhold their identity.
Hoarders have a twisted view of reality when it comes to regarding the true value of their hoard. Whereas most “normal” people realise the futility and the worthlessness of whatever the hoard may consist of, to the hoarder him/herself, their “stash” not only has significant cash worth, but it is also believed that one day it will be an essential, and will be needed for some significant purpose or another. This of course fuels their reluctance to discard any of their hoard.
Although hoarding is an obsessive compulsive disorder, the victim is none-the-less fully aware of just how their friends, family and others perceive the ludicrousness of their habit. This does in actual fact cause them much self-embarrassment, but the compulsion is so strong that easily overcomes any such feeling. The end result is that the victim becomes something of a recluse, shunning the outside world, and discouraging visitors from coming to their homes to witness the utter mess and chaos therein. Interpersonal relationships are badly affected and social lives ruined. Because of the want to keep their hoarding compulsion a secret, many hoarders remain single.
Treatment for hoarding is available, both in terms of therapeutic programs and medication. Hoarding is now being regarded by many professionals as an illness in itself, rather than as just another type of OCD and both treatments and drugs are being “fine tuned” to deal with the disorder specifically.