OCD Chicago

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Information for Individuals

Fear of Loss (Hoarding)

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Resisting the Desire to Acquire

Saving the World

How to Get Hoarders Into Treatment

Fear of loss can include obsessions such as:

  • Fear of throwing anything away; feeling extreme anxiety at the thought of throwing items away; having a conviction that the items are needed to ward off a catastrophic event
  • Fear of losing something important that will be needed in the future
  • Belief that items are valuable or useful and cannot be thrown away
  • Fear of running out of an item (such as food, pens, reading material, paper bags)
  • Extreme attachment to or superstition regarding perceived value of items
  • Belief that items should not be touched or moved by others

OCD compulsions regarding loss are most often seen as compulsive hoarding.  This can include:

  • Saving old mail, magazines, newspapers, clipped-out articles, clothing, boxes, cans, or obviously useless items
  • Buying items in multiples of a meaningful number
  • Accumulating quantities of “free” items
  • Saving broken items, or buying large quantities of many different items seen as “bargains.” In many cases, the quantities of items saved or acquired are so great that living space is compromised.  This can also lead to health hazards (such as toxins and rodents) or deferred repairs resulting in non-functional appliances or bathroom fixtures.
  • Experiencing high anxiety over checking items to make decisions of what to throw away (so it’s easier to not throw anything away)
  • Feeling safe when surrounded by accumulated items
  • Being unable to make decisions; having extreme concern over making a wrong choice, resulting in avoidance of making decisions
  • Avoiding visitors who may see or touch the accumulated clutter

Hoarding compulsions have also been associated with acquiring and keeping large numbers of pets.

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