What is compulsive hoarding?

The definition of compulsive hoarding:

*the acquisition of, and failure to discard, a large number of possessions that appear to be useless or of limited value;

*living spaces are sufficiently cluttered so as to preclude activities for which those spaces were designed

*significant distress or impairment in functioning caused by the hoarding.

(Frost & Hartl, 1996)

Approximately 15-16 million Americans are affected by hoarding disorder. This is approximately THREE times the number of Americans affected by Alzheimer's, ~4.5 million Americans. If you know one person who is affected by Alzheimer's, or a friend's loved one is affected by it, you are likely to know THREE people affected or have a family member or loved one affected by compulsive hoarding!

More than half of those who identify themselves as having issues with hoarding also report onset between the ages of eleven and twenty. The average age that a person who is struggling with hoarding issues seek treatment is fifty. That means a majority of the people struggling with these issues have done so alone, in secret, or in judgment for DECADES.

One of the biggest challenges facing researchers and providers of treatment is the component lack of insight into the problem, and habituation. Many hoarders don't see their behaviors accurately (similar to the way the person battling with anorexia views their body through a distorted mirror); if and when they begin to feel distress, habituation (the repeated exposure to some variable) has dulled the severity of the problem to them.


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