Why Someone May Hoard

Up to 3 million people in the UK are thought to hoard and the reasonings behind the behaviour still aren’t fully understood. While hoarding is most commonly linked to Obsessive Compulsive Disorders (OCD), this view is now being challenged.

Some experts believe that the compulsion to hoard comes from leftover animal instincts. For example, squirrels and birds are well known to hoard food, while dogs are often found hoarding toys in their beds. So some opinions believe that the compulsion to hoard is leftover from our ancestors; those who discovered that hoarding food and water was the key to their survival.

Other experts believe it has to do with the makeup of the brain. A study by the Department of Psychiatry at UC San Diego School of Medicine examined the brain scans of compulsive hoarders and the findings were of great interest. Information regarding this study can be found here.

The study found abnormal activity in the part of the brain known as the “bilateral anterior ventromedial prefrontal cortex” – the part at the back of the brain associated with decision making. Hoarding behaviours and tendencies were found to have developed in patients who have experienced damage to this part of the brain – for example, as a result of a stroke, infection or injury.

The Three Main Types of Hoarding

Despite conflict over the causes of hoarding, it is generally agreed that there are three main types of hoarding:

Prevention of Harm Hoarding
Some hoarders believe that certain items will bring harm to others should they discard them. For example, they may believe that if they throw away opened tins in the trash, the refuse collectors may cut themselves on the sharp edges.

Deprivation Hoarding
Some hoarders have the overwhelming feeling that they will need items later, regardless of their obvious use. This could be a result of a previous experience of deprivation.

Emotional Hoarding
For some, hoarding becomes emotional. Unfortunately, there are many who have had traumatic experiences with other people and are left feeling that certain objects can be trusted more than those around them. They go on to develop relationships with objects rather than others and subsequently, for them, objects hold deep emotional significance.

A Sign of Something Else

Hoarding can also be a sign of another condition. For example, those who are physically incapable – whether through a disability or mobility issue – to clear large amounts of clutter.

People with learning disabilities and those developing dementia may also be prone to hoarding behaviours as they may struggle to categorise or dispose of items. This can quickly spiral out of control to the point where it’s affecting their everyday life.

Mental health conditions, such as severe depression, OCD, schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders are also often associated with hoarding tendencies.

The Dangers of Hoarding

Hoarding can pose many health and safety risks to both the hoarder themselves and to any visitors to their homes – from practical issues like fire hazards to risks to the person’s wellbeing.

In the final part of our blog series, we explore the dangers of hoarding and what’s required in a hoarding clean-up; sometimes, it isn’t as straightforward as you may think.