Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: Theory, Research, and Treatment

By Ross G. Menzies; Padmal De Silva | Go to book overview

Chapter 9
COMPULSIVE HOARDING

INTRODUCTION

Randy O. Frost

Tamara L. Hartl

In Dante's Inferno (Alighieri, 1998), ‘hoarders’ and ‘wasters’ were sent to the fourth level of hell, where they would bash each other with heavy stones for eternity. The stones were burdens that symbolized their lives, having wasted their time caring too much for material things. Possessions provide convenience, comfort and pleasure for most people. However, when judgements about their value become distorted, possessions can become the heavy stones of Dante's hell. Only recently has hoarding become the focus of research, so we know relatively little about its prevalence or seriousness. We do know, however, that it can be associated with extreme incapacitation, and circumstances created by this behaviour can be unhealthy or even lethal (Frost et al., 2000b). In this chapter we will review the evidence regarding compulsive hoarding and current attempts to develop treatments for it.


DEFINITION

Early conceptualizations of hoarding derive largely from psychoanalytic theory. Freud (1908) viewed the hoarding of money as a feature of the ‘anal triad’, symbolizing faecal retention. Jones (1912) expanded this notion somewhat to include the hoarding of non-money and non-food items. Fromm (1947) suggested that acquisition of possessions was one way people related to the world, and further, that a ‘hoarding orientation’ was one form of non-productive character. He observed that hoarders depend on acquiring and saving things for their sense of security, and they use acquisition and saving as a mechanism to escape fear. More recently, Salzman (1973) discussed hoarding in the context of obsessional neurosis. For Salzman, the core of obsessional neurosis is a drive for perfection, and

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: Theory, Research and Treatment.

Edited by Ross G. Menzies and Padmal de Silva. © 2003 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

-163-

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