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A Thule culture food cache near Cambridge Bay, Nunavut Canada.

Hoarding is a general term for a behavior that leads people or animals to accumulate food or other items during periods of scarcity.


  • Animal behavior 1
  • Human hoarding 2
    • Anxiety disorder and hoarding 2.1
  • See also 3
  • References 4
  • Further reading 5
  • External links 6

Animal behavior

Hoarding and caching are common behaviors in many bird species as well as in rodents. Most animal caches are of food. However, some birds will also stingily collect other items, especially if the birds are pets. Magpies are famous for hoarding items such as money and jewelry. (Contrary to popular belief, research suggests magpies are no more attracted to shiny things than other kinds of items.) One theory suggests that human hoarding may be related to animal hoarding behavior, but at this time, substantial evidence is lacking.[1]

Human hoarding

Civil unrest or natural disaster may lead people to hoard foodstuffs, water, gasoline and other essentials which they believe, rightly or wrongly, will soon be in short supply. Survivalists, also known as preppers, often stockpile large supplies of these items in anticipation of a large-scale disaster event.

Anxiety disorder and hoarding

Apartment of a person with compulsive hoarding

Hoarders are people who lose the desire to throw away unneeded items because of a feeling of attachment to these items. Compulsive hoarders will equate certain, usually mundane, objects to their own personal identity or even give them certain human characteristics. Hoarding is different from obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD) because their thoughts about hoarding are in their natural stream of thought, not unwanted or distressed thoughts that people with OCD feel.

In severe cases, houses belonging to such people may become a fire hazard (due to blocked exits and stacked papers) or a health hazard (due to vermin infestation, excreta and detritus from excessive pets, hoarded food and garbage or the risk of stacks of items collapsing on the occupants and blocking exit routes).[2]

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition,[3] the symptoms for hoarding disorder include:

A. Persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions, regardless of their actual value.
B. This difficulty is due to a perceived need to save the items and to distress associated with discarding them.
C. The difficulty discarding possessions results in the accumulation of possessions that congest and clutter active living areas and substantially compromises their intended use. If living areas are uncluttered, it is only because of the interventions of third parties (e.g., family members, cleaners, authorities).
D. The hoarding causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning (including maintaining a safe environment for self and others).
E. The hoarding is not attributable to another medical condition (e.g., brain injury, cerebrovascular disease, Prader-Willi syndrome).
F. The hoarding is not better explained by the symptoms of another mental disorders (e.g., obsessions in obsessive-compulsive disorder, decreased energy in major depressive disorder, delusions in schizophrenia or another psychotic disorder, cognitive deficits in major neurocognitive disorder, restricted interests in autism spectrum disorder).

Specify if:

  • With excessive acquisition: if difficulty discarding possessions is accompanied by excessive acquisition of items that are not needed or for which there is no available space.

Specify if:

  • With good or fair insight: The individual recognizes that hoarding-related beliefs and behaviors (pertaining to difficulty discarding items, clutter, or excessive acquisition) are problematic.
  • With absent insight/delusional beliefs: The individual is completely convinced that hoarding-related beliefs and behaviors (pertaining to difficulty discarding items, clutter, or excessive acquisition) are not problematic despite evidence to the contrary.


See also


  1. ^ Andrews-McClymont, Jennifer G.; Lilienfeld, Scott O.; Duke, Marshall P. (Dec 2013). "Evaluating an animal model of compulsive hoarding in humans". Review of General Psychology 17 (4): 399–419.  
  2. ^ "Hoarding", Mayo Clinic, 2012. Retrieved 2013-05-19.
  3. ^ Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association. October 3, 2013. 
  4. ^ Nolen-Hoeksema, Susan (2014). Abnormal Psychology (6th ed.). New York City, NY: McGraw-Hill Education. 

Further reading

  • Tolin, David; Frost, Randy; Steketee, Gail (2007). Buried in Treasures: Help for Acquiring, Saving, and Hoarding. Oxford: Oxford University Press.  
  • Neziroglu, Fugen; Bubrick, Jerome; Yaryura-Tobias, Jose (2004). Overcoming Compulsive Hoarding: Why You Save & How You Can Stop. California:  
  • Steketee, Gail; Frost, Randy (2006). Compulsive Hoarding and Acquiring: Workbook. Oxford: Oxford University Press.  
  • Steketee, Gail; Frost, Randy (2006). Compulsive Hoarding and Acquiring: Therapist Guide. Oxford:  
  • Steketee, Gail; Frost, Randy (2011). Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things. Oxford:  
  • Nolen-Hoeksema, Susan (2014). (ab)normal Psychology. Penn Plaza, New York:  

External links

  • Boston University School of Social Work
  • International OCD Foundation Hoarding Center
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