Compulsive Hoarding is defined as the obsessive collection of usually worthless items and the inability to dispose of them. They end up congesting the living space of a person afflicted with the disorder. Though the precise cause of hoarding hasn’t been ascertained yet, genetic, environmental, physical or intellectual, and emotional causes have been suggested.
Possible Genetic Connection
Among the causes, a genetic cause is the least understood. Studies show that 85 percent of people who have compulsive hoarding disorders have close relatives with a similar disorder. Since the disorder seems to run in families, it was postulated that genetics has an impact on a person becoming a hoarder. Also, in a study done to find out if a specific gene can be identified as the cause of hoarding disorder in families, it was discovered that unique DNA patterns in genes found in chromosome 14 were identified with people whose families have relatives with OCD. The effect of this DNA and how it relates to hoarding is still unknown, but more research is being done to identify the difference in DNA makeup and genetic composition between hoarders and non-hoarders.
Environmental and Health Causes
Environmental causes, on the other hand, suggest that family experiences can influence hoarding behavior. Simply put, exposure to a family member with hoarding disorder may increase the chances of developing the disorder in the future. In addition to that, a child may be more likely to develop hoarding if exposed to severe stress in the family or the family members put to much emphasis on perfectionism.
In the case of physical or intellectual causes, studies show that changes in the brain may lead to compulsive hoarding where the symptoms manifest after a surgery, a stroke, or if a person experiences head trauma brought about by injuries. Brain-related infections may cause hoarding along with brain lesions and abnormal brain development.
From the emotional side, it was postulated that anxiety might also cause hoarding. Recently, the committee handling the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders has considered classifying hoarding disorder as a type of anxiety disorder instead of obsessive-compulsive disorder, which has been its classification up until now.
Compulsive hoarders also tend to have perfectionist tendencies, which hamper their ability to decide what to do with their collections. Due to this tendency, a hoarder would just simply choose to keep the item in reaction to the stress created by the need to make a decision. A compulsive hoarder may also fear throwing away something that can trigger a memory or may even be scared of losing important information.
More research needs to be done on the causes of hoarding for us to be able to understand how all of these causes fit together. At the same time, the psychological health community will gain insight as to why compulsive hoarders react to their collections in the manner that they do and what causes their behavior.