Harvard Women's Health Watch

When keeping stuff gets out of hand

"Waste not, want not" is a useful rule to live by; it's not a license to hoard.

We've all been encouraged to keep essentials on hand for the future. But some people take this to an extreme, acquiring and accumulating objects of dubious value (to others) and in such large and disorderly quantities that their living space is filled and normal use of the home becomes dangerous or impossible.

The problem, known as compulsive hoarding, is a prominent and distressing symptom in up to 20% of people with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). It can also occur in people with schizophrenia, dementia, eating disorders, head injuries, and certain personality disorders. Hoarding can even become a problem for a person with no psychiatric illness and no psychiatric history. Many hoarders are elderly, unmarried, socially isolated women.

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