Hoarding Defined: What Is It Really?

Hoarding is the behavior of acquiring an excessive number of items that have little or no value. While many people consider themselves to be "pack rats," collecting more possessions than they perhaps need, compulsive or pathological hoarding is an extreme behavior that tends to impact a person's ability to live a normal life.

There are many reasons why someone may begin hoarding. They may believe that the items they're saving will have a use in the future, have attached sentimental or emotional value to the items, mistakenly believe items have great value, or simply be unable to decide what to do with it.

Whatever the reason, people who hoard are unable to discard large numbers of possessions which most people would consider to have very little value. Hoarding often results in a situation that is unpleasant for both the hoarder and his or her family members: loss of living space due to clutter, social isolation and embarrassment over excessive possessions, debt or financial hardship, and potentially hazardous living conditions.

People can, and do, hoard many types of things. Some commonly hoarded items are newspapers and magazines, books, plastic bags and cardboard boxes, household supplies, articles of clothing, and animals. Animal hoarding is a particularly sad but interesting example of hoarding, because animal hoarders almost always are very attached to their pets and believe that they are providing them with proper care; it is a clear example of how hoarding is a real mental disorder that can be clearly distinguished from a healthy person's tendency to be a "pack rat."

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