What is Hoarding?
There has been a lot of attention paid lately to "Hoarders", people who collect and hold onto things long past the time when those things are useful, and in a way that interferes with them functioning effectively in their homes or offices. Oprah, Dr. Phil, and the A&E TV Show "Hoarders" have all shown examples of people who have become powerless over their "stuff" and have lost friends, family members, jobs, and homes because of their hoarding.
But is hoarding the same as being a "packrat" or a collector, or just someone who likes to be frugal and hold on to things they might use?
Saving and collecting become serious problems when they cause significant distress or interfere with your ability to function, when there are safety or health problems because of the quantity or age of things being saved (expired dates on foods and medicines), and when they interfere with you being able to use your rooms the way they were intended to be used.
Compulsive hoarding is often associated with the pain of loss - the death of a loved one may be dealt with by hanging on to everything that loved one owned. Experiencing traumatic losses of security may result in holding on to "things" to help feel that you'll never be vulnerable again. But saving (and constantly acquiring new things) without getting rid of anything inevitably leads to problems.
Compulsive hoarding is considered a mental health problem because it does involve a loss of control over behavior, difficulty making decisions, and other symptoms that interfere with emotional well-being. People who hoard often have one or more other mental disorders as well, such as Depression, Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder, Social Phobia or ADHD (Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder).