Is Hoarding an Addiction?

Addiction is a word that encompasses a lot of territory. Usually, drugs and alcohol are the first words that come to mind but there are many more things that a person can become addicted to. Besides gambling, shopping, sex and other things, did you know that hoarding is also a form of an addiction or what some may call a compulsion?

When a behavior is repeated obsessively, like hoarding, and there is no control regardless of the consequences involved, this is an addiction. An addiction can be to a substance such as drugs or alcohol or it can be a behavior, again like hoarding. The obsession delivers pleasure or it alleviates psychological pain.

Hoarding, like substance addiction, is driven by the reward or the high that comes with the behavior or the substance use. With both a tolerance is developed and more of the behavior or the substance is needed in order to get the same effect or to become satisfied. With hoarding, the reward comes from acquiring a new item to add to their collection.

If a hoarder were to suddenly stop their behavior they would not go into a physical withdrawal that is comparable to that of a drug addict or an alcoholic but they would still suffer from things like extreme anxiety and sometimes even pure panic. These are the same feelings that people with behavioral addictions suffer from.

Medications and cognitive behavior therapy do work well in treating hoarding. Like addiction, hoarding cannot be cured, only managed throughout one’s lifetime but the success rates are promising if professional help is sought.

  • 26 Commentsby Likes|Date
  • Good point, hoarding can be an addiction without a person realizing it until there is no room to move in their residence.  We all have a tendency to hold onto things and hate to part with items, look at the storage units full of stuff we do not have room for in our homes.

    Recently a person lost their live due to a fire because theire was so much stuff in the house the firefighters could not get into the house stuff kept falling into the path of the door blocking the doorway.

  • Holding things is as natural as holding memories, but when it comes to hoarding, there are people who may spend a lifetime bringing things home no matter there is no more room for them. 

    Happens to my own mom, who has a deep attachment to all her belongings, even if many of those things are not worth to keep, or could be considered trash to throw away.

    I believe the only remedy for hoarding is developing a detachment exercise to set oneself free, but not everybody can do it without a professional therapist and willingness to break with this so-called "habit."

  • Hoarding is an addiction and can become a very big problem to your health if it gets out of hand. I have seen so many people lose their homes and loved ones because of this problem, its really sad. I don't know how one would overcome this, maybe see a therapist for advise and go from there.
  • I wouldn't call hoarding an addiction as such - but it is certainly a symptom of an underlying problem. The hoarder needs to examine the reasons why they are holding on to all this stuff and try and understand that nothing bad will happen if they get rid of it all. 
  • I've watched the show a few times. They will talk about the hoarders having OCD. And I don't believe OCD is an addiction
  • Hoarding is a common compulsion of the mental disorder OCD. OCD is a common form of a mental disorder, and it’s one that is treatable. The compulsions are very different from person to person. It might be something that you can’t overcome on your own and you may need to see a counselor to help you sort out your hoarding habits.

  •  Hoarding is a sign of OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder).
    Hoarding is defined as the acquisition of, and inability to discard worthless items even though they appear (to others) to have no value. Hoarding behaviors can occur in a variety of psychiatric disorders and in the normal population, but are most commonly found in people with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Those people who report compulsive hoarding as their primary type of OCD, who experience significant distress or functional impairment from their hoarding, and who also have symptoms of indecisiveness, procrastination, and avoidance, are classified as having compulsive hoarding syndrome.

  • I hoard. Mostly because I am agoraphobic and dont know what else to do with everything without going outside. I also feel bad after I throw something out because I get bizarre thoughts like "What did that wrapper ever do to you" lol. I dont really need treatment because I dont mind who I am but I am sure a psychologist can cure it.

  • It's really hard to say if it's an addiction. Hoarding is something that happens naturally. Most addictions happen from being exposed to something first and then growing more and more of an urge for it. I would classify hoarding more as an illness before an addiction.
  • Hoarding isn't an addiction. Why do people keep calling OCD behaviors addiction? Don't get me wrong, its a bad thing and needs professional help but an addiction?
  • If it’s an addiction, it’s definitely a behavioral one. There are quite a few parallels between hoarding and other addictions; I’ve heard about mental withdrawal symptoms associated with it, especially if someone just stops cold turkey. So I think it’s super important that a hoarder who has realized their hoarding is a problem seeks professional help.
  • Clinically speaking, hoarding isn't an addiction. Metaphorically, it could be. Addiction, in technical parlance, pertains to a condition that involves extreme dependency on a particular substance (usually psychoactive in nature). Here's what Jennifer Patterson from Psychology Today said about the matter:
    Compulsive hoarding is not considered an addiction in the clinical
    meaning of the word, although compulsive behaviors can exist in
    addiction. I have examined evidence of psychological and
    neurobiological differences between hoarding and addiction and have concluded that they are not the same disorder. The psychological motivation for starting and continuing hoarding is different from the motives for addictive behavior. Also,both hoarding and addiction affect and are affected by anomalies in the brain, but the mechanisms of this are
    different for each disorder.
  • Pretty much everything in our live is an addiction if we don't live a balanced life. That is my goal, try to reach a healthy balance, if I cannot it's the addiction in action.
  • I would consider it a type of addiction because sometimes it may take over your life. I guess to a certain extent you could call it as an addiction or perhaps an obsession, since addictions and obsessions go together to create a habit. I wouldn't be too quick to judge though.
  • I definitely think that in some people hoarding can become an addiction. People can get addicted to all sorts of things, not just substances but anything and everything. If you feel like you have to do something, rather than just wanting to, then that can be the start of an addiction.
  • nice article and thoughts here. i don't feel the professional community feels that hoarding is an addiction, but can be a result of ocd.... either way, it is treatable over time...  

    though oftentimes very difficult for hoarders to "see" that they have an issue, it is possible with professional help to work through the underlying issues.
  • All the information that's out about hoarders now has really made me keep myself in check as far as pack rat habits.
  • Yeah, hoarding can definitely be considered as an addiction. Actually, I am a bit guilty of hoarding things, from books to stuffs that don't function anymore, but I still have some space at home. It is not a serious one. But yeah, I think I should do some decluttering now. 
  • @Beatrice I agree. One half of my family could qualify as hoarders, and I myself picked up some packrat habits as a result. But over the years I realized I didn’t want to live like that, and moreover, i didn’t need to live like that.
  • @Blazing  No! No! No! It isn't! Diluting the meaning of the word or rather the disease itself isn't helpful. The are some very clear lines on what constitutes a clinical addiction.
  • As someone who's parents would be classified on the lower end of the hoarding spectrum, I don't think it's an addiction, more a form of OCD or anxiety manifested in those hoarding behaviors. Personally I think it's often as a result of some sort of incident happening in life. My dad was sick when I was younger so I think the hoarding was as a result of both he and my mother being worried about funds and where things would come from if he passed away. Thankfully he got better, but I can kind of trace it back to that happening.
  • Well, I was not going that far as being in a clinical condition, but did these addictions existed in the past? These days I feel there is a name for everything and that diseases and medicines are being invented. 
  • It could just be an easy way to get people to spend money on certain meds. Like ADHD, no one had it when I was a kid. Now everybody has it!
  • How curious I watched something like this on television a while ago. Hoarders, I think is the title. The show revolved around people with this accumulation addiction and from what I saw it definitely looks like an addiction with the denial, familiar support and therapy that goes with other treatments like smoking or shopping. It's getting to be a serious problem these days, everyone needs support.
  • I don't see hoarding as an addiction... it's an actual disease, a mental disease that is part of OCD. I know because I suffer from OCD, and I have some hoarding tendency (nothing serious though).  Sometimes I get a bit obsessed with owning certain things... but that is part of my OCD, I feel I need those things!  That is why I haven't gotten rid of a lot things in my room (I did clean up so well last year (got rid of a lot junk and clothes I thought I'd later wear).

    Hoarding can get pretty serious, specially when the person starts hoarding animals. 
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