Why Do People Hoard??


| 3 Comments

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Made famous by the A&E TV show, Hoarders, the compulsive disorder in which one is unwilling to discard extreme amounts of useless objects has become famous. Even though hoarding is yet to be defined as a distinct disorder, the symptoms of this OCD-like behavior is easily categorized. In order to be considered a hoarder, someone has to hold onto an extreme amount of things most people find useless, for example, junk mail, broken objects, clothes that have never been worn. There has to be so much clutter that parts of their home can't be accessed of used properly, like no longer using a bed to sleep on, just to hold all their junk. Finally, the mess has to be so large that it could potentially cause illness or injuries, and causes distress to anyone who encounters it.

Incredibly, what once was hardly ever heard of is now becoming a predominant problem in America. It is estimated that over 15 million suffer from compulsive hoarding, something that not only affects the hoarders themselves, but also neighbors and other family members. Examples of this are house fires, in which rescue teams aren't able to save family members because the piles of things they own are engulfed in flames too quickly. Or people who hoard animals, which often become malnourished and ill, spreading diseases.

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Even though this behavior is something dangerous and frankly, disgusting, I wondered why it is affecting so many people. There are many theories as to why people hoard.

1.                    It's been found that hoarding typically affects elderly people. This may be because when people are younger they often live someone who can help manage the mess, but once people get older they lose spouses or other family and become more isolated.

2.                    Another theory links depression and hoarding. It has been found that up to 15% of those who are depressed hoard, compared to the 2% of not depressed people who hoard. Scientists believe this is because both hoarding and depression affect the frontal lob of the brain.

3.                   A person's characteristics. Many people who hoard report that they have a strong sense of responsibility for their belongings, and well as a fear of making a mistake. They don't want to risk throwing anything away that may be useful at a later time.

 

            Recently, a theory that scientists have turned to is genetics. In my research, I found that the majority of scientific studies done on hoarders show that the compulsive disorder is something that runs in the family. Most people whose parents hoarded are also prone to hoarding. Articles that I read stated that people who hoard compulsively have a unique pattern in chromosome 14, meaning an area on their chromosome is different than normal peoples. Families with 2 or more hoarding relatives seem to have this pattern. But, at the moment these are all preliminary studies. Scientists have stated that they need to run many more large scale studies in order to prove that the abnormality they've seen in hoarder's chromosome 14 is directly related to hoarding. 

3 Comments

I wouldn't consider my mom a hoarder by any means, but she definitely saves a LOT of stuff. She has a hard time throwing away stupid things and keeps it all in our storage room in the basement. I never understood why but now after reading this I realize that her mother is the same way! My grandma keeps everything too. They both match the characteristic of having a fear of making a mistake. My mom and grandma both hate messing up! It's strange though, because me and my siblings all aren't like this at all. We throw everything away and hate clutter! Does this mean it just skipped a generation? I researched and found out that conditions that are a result of homozygous recessive inheritance can skip generations many times. So, this is apparently why I don't have the condition... Thank god!

http://www.answers.com/topic/why-do-some-genetic-conditions-skip-a-generation

I found the link between depression and hoarding very interesting, and it certainly makes sense. With the knowledge we have of depression, especially after a tragic event, it is clear that people like to hang on to keepsakes or things that remind them of the past. For a person that is not able to move past these events, they build up their problems and eventually harm themselves or others by hoarding. I think there is a definite difference between people who are sloppy and those who hoard. Sloppy people, for the most part, can recognize their fault but don't do anything about it. Hoarders deny consistently that they have a problem. But one of the most interesting aspects for me is why do people love seeing these problems? Why do people love the show Hoarders: is it because it makes them feel better about their smaller dresses or the findings in the piles of "stuff" is just astounding? This article has some answers, but I still think it is an interesting topic that scientists might be able to study: http://voices.yahoo.com/why-we-watch-tv-shows-hoarding-like-hoarders-5669030.html

I think that underlying cognitive deficits such as adequate decision making skills, planning, and organizing are more likely to be passed down genetically than hoarding alone. Inheriting hoarding seems like a stretch to me. Environment has to play a role in this. I don't believe that there is a gene for hoarding but if there is, it can probably be overcome with proper guidance. Likewise, if you are brought up in an environment of hoarding then maybe you are more likely to hoard then someone that may be genetically dispositioned due to their chromosome 14 and was raised to not hold on to junk. Besides, just because somebody has a genetic predisposition to have a particular behavioral deficit, that doesn’t mean they are doomed to have it.

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