How do people become hoarders

When hoarding becomes a problem

Magazines, egg cartons or shoes pile up in the apartment and none of them should be thrown away? This is typical of pathological hoarding. In Germany, around 5% of people are affected.

More common in the elderly

Reusing is good for your wallet and the environment. But if the storage gets out of hand, there may be pathological hoarding. And that is not so rare in Germany, explains Professor Ulrich Voderholzer. About 2% of the younger and 6% of the older people in Germany are said to be affected.

Often associated with shopping addiction

Hoarders find it difficult to throw something away because they have a strong emotional relationship with things. It is materially worthless, such as shoes, old exercise books, old magazines or items of clothing inherited from parents. The disease needs treatment when hoarding interferes with life. For example, when the partner no longer wants to trip over hundreds of shoeboxes. Or guests are no longer invited because the apartment is too full. In 60% of the cases, hoarding is also associated with shopping addiction and financial problems, describes Voderholzer.

Hoarder or messie?

Messie syndrome must be differentiated from pathological hoarding. Even with the messies, the apartment is always full, but mostly with rubbish. Nevertheless, the clinical pictures overlap: After all, every 5th messie is also a pathological hoarder.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder difficult to treat

The causes of the disease also differ. In the case of messies, this is often depression or dementia. On the other hand, there is an obsessive-compulsive disorder behind hoarding. The disease usually begins in adolescence and becomes more and more pronounced with age. One explanation could be that hoarders had few ties in their childhood and compensated for this with the possession of things. Some do not throw away superfluous things because of feelings of guilt, e.g. B. if there is an ambivalent relationship with the deceased parents. Horters typically have deficits in planning and organizing, which brings the clinical picture close to ADHD. Interestingly, some after-school workers also suffer from this disorder at the same time.

Due to their strong emotional connection to the objects, after-school nurses are difficult to treat. Because getting and keeping them triggers feelings of happiness and security. In the USA, a special psychotherapy for hoarding has been developed, in which the therapists also visit the homes of their clients. Corresponding therapy programs have recently become available in the German-speaking area, but so far not nationwide.

Source: Info Neurology and Psychiatry


03/31/2021 | Dr. med. Sonja Kempinski