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Compulsive hoarding

  Compulsive hoarding (or pathological hoarding) is extreme hoarding behaviour in humans. It involves the collection and/or failure to discard large numbers of objects even when their storage causes significant clutter and impairment to basic living activities such as moving around the house, cooking, cleaning, showering or sleeping. Hoarding rubbish may be referred to as syllogomania. A slang term for a compulsive hoarder is pack rat or packrat.



While there is no definition of compulsive hoarding in accepted diagnostic criteria (such as the current DSM), Frost and Hartl (1996) provide the following defining features:[1]

  • the acquisition of, and failure to discard, a large number of possessions that appear to be useless or of limited value
  • living spaces sufficiently cluttered so as to preclude activities for which those spaces were designed
  • significant distress or impairment in functioning caused by the hoarding

Case study

The following (edited) case study is taken from a published account of compulsive hoarding:[2]

The client, D, lived with her two children, aged 11 and 14, and described her current hoarding behaviour as a 'small problem that mushroomed' many years ago, along with corresponding marital difficulties. D reported that her father was a hoarder and that she started saving when she was a child. In addition to hoarding, she reported several other obsessive-compulsive symptoms, such as fear of hurting others due to carelessness, an over-concern with dirt and germs, a need for symmetry and a need to know or remember things. D also suffered from a handwashing compulsion and engaged in lengthy cleaning rituals of household items. The volume of cluttered possessions took up approximately 70 percent of the living space in her house. With the exception of the bathroom, none of the rooms in the house could easily be used for their intended purpose. Both of the doors to the outside were blocked, so entry to the house was through the garage and the kitchen, where the table and chairs were covered with papers, newspapers, bills, books, half-consumed bags of chips and her children's school papers dating back ten years.

Related conditions

It is not clear whether compulsive hoarding is a condition in itself, or simply a symptom of other related conditions.[3] Several studies have reported a correlation between hoarding and the presence and / or severity of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Hoarding behaviour is also related to obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD). There may be an overlap with a condition known as impulse control disorder (ICD), particularly when compulsive hoarding is linked to compulsive buying or acquisition behaviour. However, some people displaying compulsive hoarding behaviour show no other signs of what is usually considered to be OCD, OCPD or ICD. Those diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) often have hoarding tendencies.[4]

Physiology and treatment

People who exhibit compulsive hoarding tend to absorb glucose into the brain differently than people who do not exhibit this behavior. The difference in cerebral metabolism of glucose is greatest in the rear and central parts of the brain.[5]

A 2004 University of Iowa study found that damage to the frontal lobes of the brain can lead to poor judgement and emotional disturbances, while damage to the right mesial prefrontal cortex of the brain tends to cause compulsive hoarding. [6]

OCD disorders are treated with various antidepressants: from the TCA family clomipramine (brand name Anafranil); and from the SSRI family paroxetine (Paxil), fluoxetine (Prozac), fluvoxamine (Luvox), sertraline (Zoloft), and citalopram (Celexa). With existing drug therapy OCD symptoms can be controlled, but not cured. Serveral of these compounds have been tested successfully in conjunction with OCD hoarding, but paroxetine in particular is indicated for treatment of compulsive hoarding.[7] As always, care must be taken in the use of prescription medication. Antidepressant drugs have been linked with increased suicide rates. The U.S. FDA now requires a "black box" warning on many of these drugs. Paroxetine has also been associated with birth defects. Lawsuits have been filed against this drug. A 2006 study of this usage of the drug to treat compulsive hoarding was conducted by the University of California, San Diego.

OCD disorders are also treated with psychotherapy.

See also


  1. ^ Frost, R.O.; Hartl, T.L. (1996). A cognitive-behavioral model of compulsive hoarding. Behavior Research and Therapy, 34 (4), 341-50.
  2. ^ Hartl, T.L.; Frost, R.O. (1999). Cognitive-behavioral treatment of compulsive hoarding: a multiple baseline experimental case study. Behavior Research and Therapy, 37 (5), 451-61.
  3. ^ Steketee, G,; Frost, R. (2003). Compulsive hoarding: Current status of the research. Clinical Psychology Review, 23 (7), 905-27.
  4. ^ Hartl TL, Duffany SR, Allen GJ, Steketee G, Frost RO (2005). "Relationships among compulsive hoarding, trauma, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder". Behaviour research and therapy 43 (2): 269-76. doi:10.1016/j.brat.2004.02.002. PMID 15629755.
  5. ^ Cerebral Metabolism of Glucose and Compulsive Hoarding
  6. ^ Univ. of Iowa on brain's cortex and compulsive hoarding.
  7. ^ Paxil treats Compulsive Hoarding
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Compulsive_hoarding". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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