The problem of hoarding used to be largely out of sight. Compulsive hoarders typically avoid visitors and rarely seek help. But television shows such as Hoarders and Hoarding: Buried Alive have increased public awareness by presenting vivid pictures of hoarding to millions of viewers. Mental health professionals are also taking a fresh look at the problem, reports the November 2011 issue of Harvard Women's Health Watch.
Compulsive hoarders acquire and accumulate objects in such large and disorderly quantities that their living space becomes dangerous or impossible to use for normal activities. Stockpiling paper is especially common. Vast stacks of old newspapers, magazines, books, mail, and lists pile up, leaving no space to sleep or eat. Worse, the piles may catch fire or topple over, causing injury or death.
Hoarding was once considered a symptom of obsessive-compulsive disorder, but mental health professionals now believe it's its own disorder and have come up with new criteria for diagnosing it.
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