A Moment of Science

Compulsively Cluttered

Do you have a place that seems to be perpetually cluttered? Well, for some people it's not just a drawer, or their garage, it's everywhere.

Cluttered room in house

Photo: maureen_sill (flickr)

Constant cluttering may be due to a disorder called "compulsive hoarding" which causes people to become anxious when making decision about whether to keep something or throw it out

Do you have a place that seems to be perpetually cluttered? A drawer? A corner of the garage?

Well, for some people it’s not just a drawer, or their garage, it’s everywhere. In fact these people keep so much stuff lying around that it totally disrupts their lives. They have a problem called compulsive hoarding syndrome.

Compulsive hoarding is a neuropsychiatric disorder. Compulsive hoarders tend to hang on to stuff that most people consider junk, like old take out menus, magazines, bank deposits, and so on. All that stuff takes up so much space that it completely disrupts their lives. The clutter even creates health risks caused by insect infestations and mold.

Compulsive hoarders simply can’t throw stuff away even if they want to.

Where most people have little trouble getting rid of junk mail, for example, compulsive hoarders feel anxious that they may be throwing out some important information. Scientists think it may have a genetic link, since compulsive hoarding runs in families. Also, they have concluded that it may be caused by low functioning in a part of the brain involved with decision making and spatial organization.

There are treatments and medication availiable to curb the desire to hoard, however there could be millions of people with the disorder who don’t get treatment because people think they’re just lazy.

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