Defining compulsive hoarding

Dictionary Definition

The dictionary definition of a hoard is 'a supply or fund stored up and often hidden away', alternatively 'a secret store of valuables or money'. The word hoard can be used as a noun or verb (with or without object).

Originating from Middle English hord, from Old English, akin to Gothic huzd treasure, Old English hydan to hide.  The origin dates from before the 12th century.

The word hoarding was originally coined to describe the behaviour of animals storing food for future use, then moved into use as a descriptor of human behaviour. 

Different types of hoarding

The term 'hoarding' is used generically to describe a very wide range of medical conditions. 

  • Clinical compulsive hoarding which is the most common type.
  • OCD or 'perfectionist' hoarding.
  • Animal hoarding.  This is very rare, although these are the cases that reach the newspapers. 
  • Diogenes syndrome, also known as senile squalor syndrome is exceedingly rare disorder of self-neglect in association with severe personality disorders usually in the elderly.

The Medical Definition

In 1996 Randy O Frost and Tamara L Hartl defined compulsive hoarding with the following:

  • The acquisition of, and failure to discard, possessions that appear to be of useless or of limited value.
  • Living spaces so cluttered that using the room as intended is impossible
  • Significant distress or impairment to function.

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