Hoarding Disorder

by Dr. Lorin Bradbury

Question: What is the difference between a hoarding disorder and collecting junk?

Hoarding Disorder has been talked about for some time, but it finally made its way into the DSM-5. The primary difference between Hoarding Disorder and being a junk collector is that 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.

A junk collector may feel a strong need to collect items, and may even have trouble throwing things away, but a hoarder can have his entire life controlled by the overwhelming compulsion to save everything. In general, a junk collector may be seen as eccentric, while hoarding is now considered a mental disorder requiring treatment.

One thing that differentiates hoarders from junk collectors is the motivation for their behavior. Junk collectors probably have fairly logical reasons for the things they keep, while hoarders are often motivated by irrational ideas or compulsions they can’t explain.

For example, in a village, or even in Bethel, used snowmaching parts, boat motor parts, or car parts could rationally be thought of as valuable to a junk collector. Hoarders, on the other hand, not only find it almost impossible to throw anything away, they keep things for which they have no purpose.

Hoarders’ houses often become filled with old newspapers and piles of junk. Eventually, it may become very difficult for them to move from one room to another because of the junk. And sometimes, they may even waste financial resources renting extra storage space so they can avoid throwing things away. Junk collectors, on the other hand, if they spent money on junk would probably see themselves either using the item or reselling it for a price. Hoarders would not be able to let go of the items, and probably could explain why.

Lorin L. Bradbury, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in private practice in Bethel. For appointments, he can be reached at 543-3266. If you have questions that you would like Dr. Bradbury to answer in the Delta Discovery, please send them to The Delta Discovery, P.O. Box 1028, Bethel, AK 99559, or e-mail them to [email protected].

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