A very basic description of a compulsive hoarder is someone unable to dispose of excess or unused things things to the point where their belongings are clogging their living space. Making a cup of tea, or sleeping in their own bed becomes impossible because the spaces designed for living in have become storehouses.
Compulsive hoarding as a survival mechanism
Some hoarding situations can be part of survival mechanisms. Traditional farming entails saving or ‘hoarding’ a harvest to last through the winter, saving seed to be planted in the spring. Other animals hoard. Squirrels gather nuts. Brain scans done on squirrels show activity in the same areas as human hoarders.
Emergency candles, tinned goods and spare light bulbs are all useful things in moderation. With a compulsive hoarder these positive choices are taken to an extreme where they no longer have any meaning or use. The food kept by farmers for the winter will rot if not used. Old seed loses its ability to sprout. It is at this point that the psychological factors come into play.
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