What Causes Hoarding?

The precise causes of hoarding are unknown, but it appears that both genetics and environmental factors play a role. Because hoarding behaviors can begin very early in life, appearing in children as young as 3 years old, it seems likely that there is some biological basis for the disorder. Compulsive hoarding is also more likely to occur in people who have a family history of hoarding.

Hoarding and Emotion

Hoarding behaviors can develop or intensity in response to a traumatic or stressful life event, suggesting that hoarding may act as a coping mechanism for some people. Compulsive hoarders may collect items because they feel very emotionally attached to them or feel the need to maintain control over them. They often feel very anxious or distressed when they are faced with discarding an item or see an item they feel they need to acquire.

Compulsive hoarding occurs more frequently among people with certain other psychological disorders, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, PTSD, other anxiety disorders, depression, and personality disorders.

Hoarding and the Brain

People who hoard items compulsively often have difficulty sustaining attention, increased impulsivity, impaired memory recall, difficulty categorizing possessions, and trouble making decisions. Compulsive hoarding appears to be associated with certain abnormal brain activity, particularly in the orbitofrontal cortex, ventromedial prefrontal cortex, and anterior cingulate cortex (all parts of the brain's frontal lobe).

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