Are You a Hoarder?

March 7, 2015

Can’t get rid of stuff–ever? Do you have a room in your home stuffed with anything and everything — a place where you just hope no one ever enters…ever thought you could have a bit of a hoarding problem? The Mayo Clinic says hoarding is “the excessive collection of items, along with the inability to discard them.”

There are even animals that are hoarders. The Arctic Gray Jay stores 100,000 mouthfuls of berries, insects and spiders so that he has enough food for the winter. A male species of bird called Black Wheaters, spend time piling up heavy stones before mating season–a way to advertise to their potential mates that they’ve got Darwinian fitness.

Researchers have recently discovered various patterns that many hoarders have:

  • hoarding runs in families – so it could be genetic.
  • hoarders tend to be emotional.
  • they tend to attach to things very sentimentally.
  • they think of their stuff – like coffee cups and newspapers – like you think of your finest jewelry.
  • they are often intelligent and well educated.
  • they have a profound inability to make decisions.
  • they are overtalkers.

Psychologists say hoarding is different than OCD because people don’t respond to treatment with antidepressant drugs and hoarders actually like being surrounded by their stuff. In a study in the American Journal of Psychiatry, hoarders were shown to have lower activity in the cingulate gyrus—a structure that runs through the middle of the brain, front to back—particularly in areas known to be involved in decision making and focusing attention. Researchers now think drugs like Ritalin (used for ADD) could help by improving concentration and attention.

Perhaps you’re the opposite of a hoarder — your home is so tidy and neat you don’t have a single piece of excess. Researchers say some people are the opposite of hoarders and have a compulsive need to discard — called compulsive spartinism. But that’s for another day.

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