Question: My mother was a compulsive hoarder but sadly recentley passed away. 4 other of my family members are also compulsive hoarders. I don’t hoard, but I have a diagnosed impulse control disorder. Are there any studies being done that will explore the correlation of Impulse Control Disorders to hoarding and treatment methods? Also I am looking to have my mums hoarded house cleared.
Answer: We know that hoarding does run in families and that there may be a genetic basis for the excessive saving and clutter that we see in hoarding, although it will probably be a while before we understand just what traits are inherited genetically. One possibility is that impulse control problems underlie hoarding behaviors, at least for some people. We do see this clinically, often in the form of excessive acquiring. People may be unable to resist an attractive item, whether in a store or in the rubbish on the side of the street, and they buy or acquire things on impulse, regardless of any real need for items or ability to afford them. For example, in a filmed episode that appeared on Dateline, one man went to the rubbish tip intending to discard several items but just as he was throwing the items into the bin, he became very excited about something he saw in the bin. He was unable to resist pulling out several more things, in the end taking away more than he discarded. This type of behavior is much like compulsive buying which is an impulse control disorder, akin to impulsive behaviors like gambling. Continued near the bottom of this page.
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Research on the nature of compulsive hoarding examines the relationship of hoarding to various impulse control disorders (ICDs). This study used an Impulse Control Disorders Interview to identify potential problems with buying, kleptomania (compulsive stealing), gambling and explosive angry episodes to determine whether any of these are related to hoarding. Another recent study showed hoarding was more closely related to obsessive compulsive symptoms than to ICDs of kleptomania (stealing), compulsive gambling and trichotillomania (compulsive hairpulling), but not surprisingly, hoarding was closely related to the ICD of compulsive buying. Thus, hoarding seems to be closely linked to compulsive buying but not other impulsive behaviors in college students. We don’t yet know whether this will hold true for older adults.