The Fascinating Reason Hoarders Can't Throw Things Away

Hoarding
Ash Lindsey Photography/Getty Images

In the last ten years, reality television has opened us up to a lot of really strange phenomena, such as weird eating addictions, this little internet trend called 'catfishing', and hoarding.

Hoarders are people who don't get rid of anything, but instead choose to 'hoard' these items in their houses, on their property, or in other areas like storage units. And they're not just hoarding clothes or electronics... they're holding onto everything, from old food containers to empty soda cans to bags of poop. Yes, this is real.

Here's an example of a hoarder from one of TLC's shows about hoarding, called 'Hoarding: Buried Alive':

As you can see in the video, hoarding can have massive impacts on the personal lives of the hoarders. Well, duh. If there's no way to move around a person's house, it's pretty difficult to stay in touch with them.

We've been watching hoarders for years, soaking up the strange stories with glee and a little bit of disgust. But you probably don't know that hoarding is actually a diagnosed mental illness. 

'Compulsive Hoarding' is a mental illness that was defined as a mental disorder in 2013, according to Psych Central. It affected between 700,000 and 1.4 million people in the United States (WHAT?! This makes dating apps scary all over again...).

Compulsive hoarders are usually perfectionists, as surprising as that is. They don't like other people moving their stuff, and they think that their disorder is in fact a state of order. Their compulsion to hoard usually starts in childhood or adolescent years, and the disorder tends to run in families.

Hoarders
Paula Salischiker

Compulsive hoarding is as difficult to control as OCD, which is why it's a little messed up that there are so many shows made with the intent to expose and basically humiliate compulsive hoarders.

There's no simple solution to compulsive hoarding, just like there's no simple solution for most mental disorders. All a compulsive hoarder can do is seek treatment and therapy. 

Maybe TLC should stop making so many hoarders shows and instead create a show about compulsive hoarders seeking help for their disorder. THAT would be a show we could get behind.

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