Many people collect things—newspapers, clothes, cookware, shoes—but what happens when your collecting becomes an obsession? You don’t become a hoarder overnight; it happens gradually, and one day you or someone else sees the truth; that your home has become a storage bin, and there is little room to sit, walk or sometimes even stand. Hoarding means to collect items excessively with the inability to get rid of them (visualizing getting rid of these items causes an overwhelming, unbearable panic). Hoarding may become life threatening when the collection includes collecting animals, making living conditions unsanitary and harmful to one’s health. Hoarding can be a symptom of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), but many people who hoard don't have other OCD-related symptoms. People who hoard also have a healthy dose of denial. Many times they don’t see it as a problem (until their partner leaves them), which can complicate the treatment. People who hoard usually end up alone because they don’t have room in their homes or life for a partner.
Not sure if you are a hoarder, living with a hoarder, or are simply a packrat? According to Dr. Jeff Szymanski PH.D, who has done extensive research in this area, a hoarder is spending money on lockers, additional storage space, and has a hard time finding room to live in their house. They also fill their cars with possessions because they run out of room in their home. Another distinct point Szymanski makes is that packrats aren’t keeping people out of their house because of their clutter. Hoarders, on the other hand, love all of their stuff and they have no plans to get rid of it. Packrats don’t usually need treatment; it’s more of a personal preference. Hoarders are usually isolated and alone due to their hoarding. They are drawn to newspapers, magazines, books, clothing, receipts, bills, emails, and junk mail. The amount of junk a hoarder can accumulate is limitless.