Is Hoarding an OCD?

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Compulsive hoarding is the acquisition of and failure to use or discard, such a large number of seemingly useless possessions that it causes significant clutter and impairment to basic living activities such as mobility, cooking, cleaning, showering or sleeping. A person who engages in compulsive hoarding is commonly said to be a “pack rat”, in reference to that animal’s apparent fondness for material objects. However, according to Fox New, compulsive hoarding may in fact be inherited.

The condition is classed as a subtype of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), present in 30 to 40 percent of individuals affected with OCD. Compulsive hoarding is distinct from bad planning and disorganization because it is believed to be a pathological brain disorder. It is often a symptom of other disorders, such as impulse control disorder or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Bereavement or another significant life event can trigger excessive hoarding behavior.

Hoarding often runs in families, but it is uncertain whether DNA is involved. “People with this problem tend to have a first-degree relative who also does,” says Randy O. Frost, Ph.D., a psychologist at Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts. “So it might be genetic, or it might be a modeling effect.”

Gene research suggests that a region on chromosome 14 may be linked with compulsive hoarding in families with OCD. The study, carried out by a team from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in March 2007, analyzed samples from 999 OCD patients in 219 families. Families with two or more hoarding relatives showed a unique pattern on chromosome 14, whereas the other families’ OCD was linked to chromosome 3.

To learn more about Hoarding and other obsessive-compulsive disorders, please visit the neuroscience department at NorthShore University HealthSystem.

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