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Updated July 09, 2014

Man in an office over flowing with paperwork
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Definition: Pathological or compulsive hoarding is a specific type of behavior characterized by:

  • acquiring and failing to throw out a large number of items that would appear to have little or no value to others (e.g., papers, notes, flyers, newspapers, clothes).
  • severe cluttering of the person's home so that it is no longer able to function as a viable living space.
  • significant distress or impairment of work or social life.
About 15% of people with OCD report compulsive hoarding as their primary problem. While it usually begins in childhood, it often goes unnoticed until adulthood. People who hoard often have relatives who have also engaged in compulsive hoarding.

Hoarding does not seem to respond as well to medications such as Anafranil (Clomipramine) or Paxil (Paroxetine) as other forms of OCD. A cognitive behavioral approach may be more effective, as it specifically targets the harmful thoughts that are often present among people who hoard.

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