Hoarding 101: Basics

Hoarding 101

Why do People Hoard?

There is no simple answer to the question, "why do people hoard"? As experts in hoarding cleanup and organization we have a unique insight into the decision making process of hoarders and based on this experience we have found that the reason why someone hoards changes from person to person and is usually triggered by one or many traumatic events in someones life which leads to the psychological inability to let go of objects in their possession. For this reason hoarding disorder should be diagnosed and treated by a mental health professional to identify and treat the root cause of the hoarding behaviors to put the individual on the road to recovery. Below we will talk about the decision making process of a hoarder as well as some of the factors that may contribute to someone developing hoarding disorder to get a better understanding of why people hoard.

The Decision Making Process of a Hoarder:

A hoarder’s brain stops them from letting go of or throwing away something, even if an item should be thrown away. A study was done by David Tolin of Yale University School of Medicine where researchers scanned hoarders’ brains and found that brain activity increased in hoarders when they had to make decisions about their own items but when they had to make decisions about someone else's items brain activity decreased. The study showed that there was avoiding behavior around decision making and the hoarder's own possessions. Every decision they make comes with the loss of what they didn’t choose and that causes anxiety, indecisiveness, and sadness. Throwing items away is a decision, so if they simply keep the items they never have to make a choice. Not making choices means never dealing with the loss of anything.

Figuring out what triggers hoarding disorder can be hard because the psychological reason causing the behavior is invisible so using a mental health professional to help find the cause is very important. Common reasons why people hoard include trauma, isolation from others, and ties to hoarding family members. We briefly analyze these reasons below to get a better idea of what causes hoarding. 

Factors that May Contribute to Hoarding Disorder:

  • Trauma: Hoarding is often triggered by a traumatic loss or event. Common contributors include divorce, childhood poverty, and death of a loved one. People can start hoarding after such events as a way to avoid grieving. Hoarding becomes a comfort that can allow them to avoid working through the pain of their trauma.
  • Isolation: Isolation from other people is also a common reason why people hoard. This is often the case with senior citizen hoarding. As their children and grandchildren move away they are left increasingly alone, especially if they are retired and widowed. This causes people to seek comfort in belongings instead of other people. Once this happens it’s easy to become attached to objects and it’s hard to get rid of anything.
  • Family Ties: The International OCD Foundation reports, “50 to 80% of people who hoard had first-degree relatives whom they considered ‘pack rats’ or hoarders.”  We learn our behaviors through what we’re exposed to and growing up around hoarding behavior can cause someone to exhibit those tendencies in adult life.

From the outside looking in, it can be hard to understand why people hoard. Living conditions look uncomfortable, the home can be unsanitary, and the sheer amount of objects in the home impedes the ability to move around in and or use the space of the home for what it is meant to be used for. However, if the psychological reason for why someone is hoarding is addressed then the individual displaying hoarding behaviors can address them with hard work and the proper psychological treatment plan. 

Call 410-589-2747, email info@addressourmess.com, or use our contact us page for more information on our hoarding cleanup service. We are here to help!

Fri, 06/02/2017 - 13:54 by Kenneth Donnelly