Mental illnesses can cause an individual to act in a variety of ways that they ordinarily wouldn’t with a healthy state of mind. Hoarding is a behavior that is caused by a several different types of mental illnesses along with other pre-existing conditions.
Social Anxiety Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD), Panic Disorder, Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Depression are seven mental illnesses that cause hoarding.
Anxiety disorders and depression can occur independently or be a symptom/result of a more predominant mental illness.
The desire and compulsive need to hoard items is a complete obsession of those who suffer with it. This is usually due to some form of anxiety but also depression at times.
In this article we’ll take an in depth look at the five different anxiety disorders, ADHD and depression. We’ll discuss why hoarding happens because of them.
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Anxiety Related Personality Disorders
Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD)
Social anxiety disorder is an anxiety disorder that causes people to avoid social interactions due to immense amounts of anxiety.
Someone struggling with SAD feels extreme anxiety and fear that others will judge them. They embarrass easily and do not take criticism well.
Often are very sensitive to how others speak to them and will often take things the wrong way. They might make certain actions mean something negative when that was not the intent.
Someone struggling with social anxiety disorder will also have a lot of anxiety and worry that they might offend people.
They overthink their words and watch for reactions of others as to not offend them. They have been known to “tip toe” around peoples feelings and will apologize when it is not necessary.
So how does this behavior relate to hoarding? Anyone susceptible to this level of anxiety is at risk for developing a compulsive habit such as hoarding.
Since they have obsessive tendencies, it is very possible for this to be part of their personal life, not just how they behave socially.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
When someone initially thinks about hoarding and a mental condition, OCD might be one of the first mental illnesses that comes to mind.
While not all with OCD are hoarders, the obsession and compulsion to hoard will be ideal for some with this disorder.
The obsessive thoughts will be that they cannot be unprepared and the compulsion is the hoarding. While most hoarders hoard all kinds of things, someone with OCD might be moved to hoard a certain type of item.
This is based in the irrational fear that they will need it all at some point. The anxiety and extreme compulsion to hoard will be very difficult to correct but of course, it is possible.
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Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Many who suffer with severe post-traumatic stress disorder have been known to be hoarders. In this case, hoarding is a comfort mechanism and may help to temporarily ease their anxiety and stress.
They may have irrational fears surrounding the lack of something. Feeling like they are securing themselves through the accumulation of “stuff” might temporarily help. It might make them feel more in control of their stress and anxiety.
As with any hoarder, there is potential that the clutter itself could cause anxiety. However, parting with items is usually not going to happen unless the individual receives treatment for their PTSD.
Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD)
As mentioned in this earlier article on Understanding OCPD vs OCD, obsessive compulsive personality disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder are two totally different disorders.
Someone with OCPD will seem overly particular about nearly everything in their life. They do not experience obsessions and compulsions as those with OCD do.
They driven to irregular behaviors from whatever their overall obsession is.
For some, it will be hoarding. A hoarder with obsessive compulsive personality disorder will be insistent that they are hoarding for practical reasons, will not see anything wrong with it and might even judge those who do not hoard.
They may believe that they’re somehow more responsible and “prepared” than others and will not be able to see their lifestyle as an issue.
For more on OCPD, check out this article on What is Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder.
Just as with PTSD, someone struggling with panic disorder will suffer from extreme anxiety.
Hoarding can be a symptom of those struggling with panic disorder as it provides some form of temporary comfort when panic related thoughts/fears set in.
Someone with panic disorder who hoards may feel safer the more they hoard. They may or may not see it as as issue and may only be able to focus on the comfort that is provided as a result.
Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Those suffering with ADHD usually have some level of impulsive behavior as a result of this disorder.
While ADHD has been seen more commonly in children and teens, it can stay with the individual into adulthood.
Signs of ADAH include being unorganized and not finishing a tasks. Depending on personal characteristics and anxious tendencies, living in clutter and hoarding can be seen with those with ADHD.
Depression is a mental illness that can effect people exclusively or be seen with another mental illness. Much of the time, depression and some form of anxiety go hand in hand.
When someone is depressed, they may act in irrational ways in order to cope and ease their emotional pain. If shopping is someone’s go-to activity to ease their depression they may end up hoarding indirectly.
Also, someone with depression might become a hoarder if simply having a large quantity/variety of “stuff” simply eases their pain temporarily.
It depends on the specific pain per individual and the reasons behind why they feel the way they do.
If this is a concern in your own life, being open with your loved ones and seeking professional help can help eliminate the issue behind hoarding, bring you peace of mind and improve your quality of life!
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