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What’s Causing the Rise of Hoarding Disorder? (jstor.org)
135 points by toufiqbarhamov 31 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 193 comments



Smaller living space means that you can't save the thing you will need once every five year anymore. A previously adaptive behavior becomes poorly adaptive.

Cheap disposable items. Where before you would have a few hand made item of high quality, you now get a lot of lower quality items. This is partially related to technological advancement. If things become obsolete fast, it doesn't make sense to build with quality. Anyway a consequence is that it's easier to acquire a large amount of stuff than before.

Anti-landfill propaganda. We are guilt-tripped for throwing stuff in the garbage. We are told to dispose of things in very complicated ways and then it may be easier to just not dispose of it.

Breakdown of community and family. Before we might keep things around by giving them away to relatives or friends. There is a satisfaction in passing the torch. But this option isn't as available anymore.


>it's easier to acquire a large amount of stuff than before

I suspect this is the factor. A behaviour that is adaptive in an environment of scarcity becomes maladaptive in an environment of abundance.

When my grandmother was a child, practically the only thing that genuinely counted as "garbage" was ash from the fire. Pretty much everything else had a meaningful value. Scraps of paper could light the fire. Scraps of cloth could make a quilt or a rug. Vegetable peelings went to the pigs and not a morsel of edible food was wasted. Packaging wasn't a word anyone was familiar with, but boxes and tins would be saved for re-use. Furniture was repaired and re-repaired until it was only good for firewood.

A lot of people were essentially raised to be hoarders, either through direct experience or transmission of those values from their parents. That mindset isn't irrational, but it's a poor match for the 21st century. It's all too easy to lose sight of the purpose of those values and hoard for the sake of hoarding.

I think that similar factors explain a significant part of the obesity epidemic. The scarcity-era virtues of clearing your plate and being a generous host become vices in a world of supersized portions and supermarket offers.


My dad was brought up relatively poor by modern standards, food was on the table but would have went to school barefoot. Never eats less than five large potatoes for dinner and has a large shed(20mx20m) full of mostly metal scrap. He does use it for projects like making trailers/wood splitting machines etc but has accumulated more than he could use in a lifetime to the point where the shed is unusable.

I definitely believe this behavior comes from his don't waste anything childhood and to be fair he probably earned as much from his tinkering as he did from his main job which would have come from the same strong work ethic childhood.


It sounds like he keeps it contained, though, and he uses the stuff he saves (though not quickly enough). That doesn't strike me as hoarding in the mental illness sense.


Your historical explanation is reasonable and rational. The problem is that compulsive hoarders and eaters aren't. I mean there are persons that like to hoard, persons that like to eat much, but the extreme cases involve a personality disorder.


We didn't evolve to be rational, we evolved to survive. "Personality disorder" implies that there's something wrong with the individual, which I don't particularly agree with.

"Eat as much food as possible" and "hoard useful resources" have been successful evolutionary strategies for pretty much the entire history of life on earth. Abundance is very, very new. No species can fully adapt to a completely different ecosystem in a few generations. Most of us have at least some maladaptive responses to abundance. Some people eat too much, some people own too much stuff, some people drink too much alcohol, some people are scared or sad all the time for no obvious reason, some people lose their life savings to imaginary internet money, some people spend an unreasonable amount of time playing Candy Crush or reading Hacker News. We're just not built for the modern world.

I'm not endorsing hoarding as a lifestyle. I'm not saying that it's healthy or rational. I'm not saying that we should leave hoarders to their own devices. I'm saying that it's not crazy, just an obsolete strategy. Looking through that lens gives hoarders a means of understanding their behaviour and gives us a means of helping them.


Hoarding useful resources is an important instinct. When the instinct is so strong it causes serious problems, and the person is unable to control the instinct with his will and intellect, or is unwilling to try, then it's a disorder.

I think that's a perfectly reasonable definition.


Your evolutionary justification is cute, but you're ignoring a lot of counterevidence. For example, in what conceivable evolutionary tale is it adaptive to be surrounded by vermin, feces, and rotting garbage?


It could be that the hoarders were always present but before modern abundance and throwaway culture, their condition never manifested in a way that made them stand out from everybody else.


Or the behavior has an adverse interaction with the environment considering that scarcity has been the driving factor for homo sapiens during 99,993% of its existence but now abundance and also items in general(trash) is everywhere to be collected.


I honestly think it has a lot to do with mass media and advertising. There are some people who just can't handle near-constant and well-crafted messages to consume and buy.

One anecdote was a woman I know who (when someone cleaned out her nearly condemned) house became enraged that he was "getting rid of all her memories." The thing has supplanted the good feeling of having the thing.

"Nostalgia marketing" does this. How many versions of Monopoly do you need?? Well, here's one with the ORIGINAL TOKENS and WOODEN HOUSES!! And here's one with SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS!! and OHIO STATE FOOTBALL!!!! You need them ALL or your life is incomplete.


eh? I dunno about hoarding, but I have feelings about eating.

At least for eating, most people don't operate rationally; can you tell me how many calories you ate and burned today? yesterday? I can, but I have been putting a lot of effort into this for some time now. most people don't know what they ate yesterday, unless they eat the same thing every day. Most people operate on instinct. I've operated on instinct for most of my life, too; I was super skinny as a teenager, healthy in my early 20s, then growing into overweight but not obese in my late 20s and early 30s... then obesity set in during the mid to late '30s

This really was pretty steady; my strength changed a lot; during that period my bench press would go from 50kg to 100Kg and back again multiple times, but my weight just continued to very slowly increase.

Clearly, whatever subsystem decides "I'm hungry" or "I'm full" is tuned to get me to eat just a little bit more than I need to maintain my body. And it's pretty good at it. If I work out? the more I work out, the more I want to eat. working out without caloric control simply doesn't work to lose weight for me.

I've been counting calories in and out (and trying to run a small long term deficit without otherwise spending a lot of effort on what I eat) for some time now. I have gone from a BMI of 31 to a BMI of 26 in the last year or so. This after trying a bunch of "eat this not that" diets, which have never worked for me. But I have been... slightly hungry for the last year or so, and thus I think about food and my relationship to food a lot.

My theory? My theory is that my farming ancestors found it advantageous to eat a little more than they needed when food was around; that it was better to carry that bit of a belly around all the time if it meant that you wouldn't die if you didn't stash away quite enough grain for the winter.

(As an aside "just eat less" "stop when you are only slightly hungry" also doesn't work for me; that ends up with me eating way less than I need to for some reason (I need to come within 20 or 30% of my maintenance caloric intake, from experience, or after a few days I enter a semi-fasting state where I'm tired and can't focus - I'm guessing this is also the farming ancestors. "Oh, there isn't enough food stored? Maybe you should take a lot of naps until this year's crop is ready to bring in")


Everything I've read about weight loss and eating recently points to the conclusion that physical activity has very little to do with burning calories or weight. Activity is good and will make you healthier in many ways, but losing weight and burning fat doesn't appear to be one of those ways. In own research and personal experience, the only significant lever with regards to weight is simply: what you eat. Eat less, but better, food. There's nothing magic about it, but that doesn't mean it's always easy.

If I can find the source I'll add it later, but I've also read research that suggests that even the most active hunter-gatherer tribes in Africa, who might walk 15-20km per day, still burn about the same amount of calories as the average American. Yes, they are certainly more fit, but it might just be that the stronger you get from working out, the less calories you burn anyway.


physical activity has a lot to do with burning calories; that doesn't translate into weight loss for most people because physical activity makes you hungry.


You are correct, I worded that poorly.


eh? I dunno about hoarding, but I have feelings about eating.

And quite a story. ConceptJunkie explained elsewhere in the thread what I consider to be a disorder: a behaviour that harms yourself and, even knowing it's wrong, you are unable to stop.

Most people has mild variants of self-defeating behaviour in some areas. The problem is when they mess severely with our well being.

You know you can't really blame your farming ancestors, they adapted to whatever changing conditions they found. You are expected to do the same. FYI limiting carbs is more convenient than counting calories and much more effective.


> Pretty much everything else had a meaningful value.

My childhood. And I'm not that old.

I still feel the urge to peel wrapping paper carefully off and stash it away for next celebration. (I don't do it though :-)

Oh, and I'm hoping to get some animals to eat the peelings and old bread.


This reuse, repair, until you really can't was still very common in eastern Europe in 1990s, now it's slowly going away ...


In addition to being easier to acquire, it is also a lot crappier and most expensive things are only built to last 5-10 years. As the price of labor and our corresponding standard of living have increased, it has meant that hand built tables and chairs made from hardwoods are just not cost effective. Most people can't afford a $3K-$5K tables that can be passed down through the generations.


This is a great point, but, as someone who makes furniture, I think there is also great validity in owning temporary pieces. There are things that are good when they are heirloom pieces (I think good chairs and bookshelves are highly underrated), but desks, coffee tables, bars etc are frequently best when they are bought to fit the space they are in. if you move even once every 2-3 years for work, the availability of temporary furniture is both a serious convenience and in the case of stuff made from composite materials, it is an environmentally viable option.


Incidentally, ash can be used to make soap. A generation or two earlier, and that wouldn’t always be garbage either.


Well it depends, you just don't want just any ash, not ash from burning random garbage anyway.

The best ash for soap-making comes from burning hardwood, IIRC.


I thought you used the ash to make lye-water, and that had other uses beyond soap-making, such as making noodles.


it's both.

in Paris, everyone buys huge floor fans when the heatwave arrives in the summer, and then, because the apartments are tiny, throw then on the sidewalk/garbage. just to repeat the cycle next year.


I have made the exact opposite experience (friends, family etc), i.e. small space = a few, highly selected top quality items. Lots of space = hoarding of things you might need one day (usually never)


I read our OP as listing behaviors which may have been productive before, as mal-adaptive in today's society.


> hoarding of things you might need one day (usually never)

Until you throw it out, then you will need it a couple of days later


> Where before you would have a few hand made item of high quality, you now get a lot of lower quality items.

Hand made items didn't use to be of universal higher quality. Just the opposite.


Jane Austen's letters include high praise for a hand-made dinner set her family acquired.

You can go and see it at one of the houses she lived in.

It looks terrible by modern standards - very poor and rough.

Industrial design and production create items with tolerances, precision, and (optionally) durability that are almost completely unimaginable if you're making things by hand.

The only items up to modern standards are suits of armour and later clockwork pieces.

If you're used to modern manufacturing they look professional. But every element was made by hand - literally hammered or pressed out - and the incredible precision in later jointed pieces is just jaw-dropping.


Oh come on. There are tons of things that are better handmade even in a modern world. Clothing, high end silverware, tables, rugs, knives, glassware, jewelry and musical instruments off the top of my head.

Specifically for many musical instruments, machine-made is out of the question. For example, violins - there's an enormous amount of money to be made, but the entire market is handmade (even the low-end ones are ultimately assembled by hand, at extremely low wages in China.)


My point was specifically that we have higher quality items today. Both machined and handmade.

The quality of handmade items has improved a lot. Partially of course, because machines have corned the lower end of almost all markets; so if you go to the trouble of making things by hand, it better be good.


Isn't all clothing essentially hand-made?

It's not like a chopstick that has 1 size, where you can press a button on an industrial chain of machines and end up with 10,000 chopsticks from 1 log of wood.


Depends on if you include sewing machines and looms as hand made. I personally don’t think they qualify making just about everything outside of knitting machine made.


Sewing machines and looms don’t result in hand made clothes.

High end clothing is generally machine precision with custom sizing not hand made. Hand made cloth is an interesting novelty, but rare.


It’s generally durability that’s better with modern hand made goods not precision. A soda can for example is very precisely as weak as possible to still be useful. A hand made chair on the other hand tends to be excessively durable.


But that's just a result of economics. You can get excessively durable machine made good as well.


I'll agree that things are better engineered than they were previously. But this often comes at the cost that modern devices, in particular, are very difficult to repair.

Growing up, when there was a failure in a refrigerator, television, radio, PC XT clone, etc - it was 95% of the time a simple matter of identifying the component or logic element that has black soot on it, soldering in a new one, and continuing on. You could follow the circuit logic and reason about how the system operates, and then shoehorn in CMOS TTL gates to modify operation logic to your heart's content.

With all logic moved to PLCs, MCUs, or black box SBCs, with components shrunk to 0402 SMD packaging - this is not longer a practical option afforded to consumers. We now throw the entire unit out and buy another.

The 1970s-1990s were a magical time when teenagers could disassemble, and fix or tweak their family's vacuum cleaner or phonograph, setting the stage for an early interest and foundation in engineering.

And now, that's gone.


It depends what we mean by quality. They could be of higher durability (although they didn't necessarily owe it to the fact they were hand-made in and of itself).


probably means craftsman quality instead of mass produced.


Anti-landfill propaganda? Do you have any evidence whatsoever that anti-landfill propaganda exists in any capacity? I'm being totally sincere and I'm not angry at you whatsoever...this is just the first I have ever heard of anything like this.


It's not propaganda like the govt brainwashing citizens. There are a lot of modern green movements that not so subtly implore you to not throw things away. Maybe it sounds weird to have that stuff called propaganda, but it exists. There are billions and billions of dollars on the green movements and movements don't come without some propaganda.


"Reduce, Reuse, Recycle"

Classic propaganda mantra. The term may have negative connotations to some people today, but if you're being technical the term is neutral. There is propaganda for bad things, and propaganda for good things. Consider that during WWII, both sides were producing unambiguous propaganda:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_propaganda_during_Wor...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Propaganda_in_the_Soviet_Union...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_propaganda_during_Worl...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Propaganda_in_Nazi_Germany

The last is obviously where the negative connotations for propaganda come from, but they certainly didn't invent it and the people who opposed them were using it too. Propaganda is just a tool, and like most tools, it's amoral. Neither moral nor immoral. What matters is what you use it for. A hammer is amoral, you could use it to build an orphanage or to hit an orphan.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zero_waste

There are cities and companies whose stated goal is to have no garbage service and (somehow) recycle literally everything.


I worked for a place that removed all bins from peoples desks and offices, so the only bin left was in the kitchen.

I suspect the idea was to "remove the bins to reduce waste", but we still ate our lunches and just went for many walks a day to the kitchen.

They stopped the policy after several months


Same thing happened at an office I worked in: removed personal bins from desks, then returned them after the bins in the kitchen and bathrooms were constantly overflowing.


I'm failing to see how this ideology has invoked any sort of propaganda to suit its goals? They seem like pretty decent goals, too- though my opinions on this aren't really relevant towards whether or not propaganda is being employed.


>though my opinions on this aren't really relevant towards whether or not propaganda is being employed

Isn't such opinions the whole difference between "propaganda" and "legitimate concerns"?

People who adhere to some idea, see efforts to spread it as perfectly normal reasoning. Others would see it as propaganda.


Reduce reuse recycle


I can see where you're coming from and it is hard to distinguish from campaign and propaganda but are you genuinely and sincerely suggesting that suggesting that humans

"Reduce, reuse, and recycle"

Is propaganda? What is the opposite action of that? What is a negative thing one could do counter to reducing, reusing, and recycling? It seems to me that the only propaganda that could come about would be counter to those goals.


From Wikipedia

>Propaganda is information that is not objective and is used primarily to influence an audience and further an agenda, often by presenting facts selectively to encourage a particular synthesis or perception, or using loaded language to produce an emotional rather than a rational response to the information that is presented.

Propaganda doesn't have to be negative, it just has to be influential.

The "negative thing" about "reduce reuse recycle" is the thing we're talking about here: "Hoarding". It encourages people to keep things they don't actually need or want, which has negative effects on their living conditions and psyches, which in turn can be negative for society in general.

I'm sure it's great for the environment, but it's less than great for the humans.


It's propaganda. The correct solution is for the state to tax the externalities and let the free market solve the problem, instead of hoping people will solve it out of ethical duty. "Reduce, reuse, and recycle" instead of taxing waste is just giving the sociopaths/psychopaths yet another advantage. With correctly priced externalities there would be no need for such slogans, because it would be in everybody's best interest to do the right thing.


They do both. I pay the city per container to pick up my trash. They also run a relentless "reduce, reuse, recycle" campaign.


Your link doesn't support your thesis, and I don't know of any place that have such policy, except probably shitty places that didn't have good services in the first place.


See the “Zero waste jurisdictions” subhead: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zero_waste#Zero_waste_jurisd...

Austin, Vancouver, San Francisco, Boulder. Can personally confirm that it’s a big public propaganda and policy thing in SF. You get people spending time washing out their bottles like we’re running out of glass or a place to put it.


Meanwhile others are so desperate for clean water to drink they are desalinating sea water.

Humans are very strange.


There's definitely stuff I don't throw out when that would be the easiest path because I feel bad about it going to the dump. A dead treadmill with a working industrial motor that I'm trying to find someone who can use the motor. The kids' old swing set with perfectly usable pressure treated pine. All manner of electronic detritus (anyone need a 25 foot VGA cable? How about a 35 foot HDMI cable that's not current spec? Old component cables? An old Dell minitower? Wall wart transformers? ...). Etc.


How old are you?

In the 80s and early 90s, prior to "climate change" pushing out every other environmental concern, there was a big push to recycle due to the "landfills filling up". Accompanying video would be of a bulldozer maneuvering over a field of garbage that extended as far as the eye could see, which wasn't all that far since there were so many piles of garbage. You'd get videos of cities filled with garbage (garbage service strikes were particularly helpful here), footage from the famous Gar-barge [1], and vague intimations that we're all going to be in garbage up to our knees if we didn't recycle more. Random dumping was also quite a bit more prevalent back then, and I recall walking through state forests and just coming across an impromptu trash dump by the locals, so that helped make it feel more pressing. In more modern times, see the movie Idiocracy or the beginning of Wall-E, both of which were at least visually pulling from images floating around in the 80s and 90s, albeit exaggerated.

It made for good rhetoric, but ultimately, it was pushed out in favor of the other things you may be familiar with because it's basically ludicrous nonsense. Yes, there are absolutely some tricks to building a safe landfill and it's not free, and the risks need to be accounted for and taken care of, but it's essentially inconceivable that the world could run out of landfill space. (By the time that could happen, the technological landscape must have changed so thoroughly that your other predictions about what could happen are just useless.) The threats basically abused people's inability to think volumetrically, which anybody who has done a pool-building project, or a significant concrete project, or significant landscaping project, or anything else that involves trying to think volumetrically. You learn there's always more volume than you think there is. It's true that if we had to store trash areally, we'd be in some trouble, but landfills are volumetric, and society needs a lot less than you might think as a result. Yes, we have some impressive trash piles here and there, but there isn't all that many of them, and there can't be, because even if we tried to generate enough trash to become a problem with landfills, we'd long since have strangled ourselves on the other problems that would produce. (That is, you think we've got a CO2 problem now, wait until we try to produce 1000x more "stuff". We wouldn't get far enough into that process for the landfills to be our biggest problem.)

Energy usage and the corresponding pollution, care about contamination of groundwater and such, and simply straight-up the economic advantages of efficiency are all much better reasons to take good care of our trash and try to extract as much value from every unit of resource we take from the ground via reduce, reuse, recycle before getting the next resource.

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mobro_4000


>Anti-landfill propaganda? Do you have any evidence whatsoever that anti-landfill propaganda exists in any capacity?

For starters "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle"

https://www.epa.gov/recycle

https://www.wwf.org.au/get-involved/change-the-way-you-live/...

https://www.greenpeace.org.au/blog/beyond-reduce-reuse-recyc...

http://www.mygreenapple.org/reduce-reuse-recycle

https://www.conserve-energy-future.com/reduce-reuse-recycle....

https://kids.niehs.nih.gov/topics/reduce/index.htm

https://www.nrdc.org/stories/reduce-reuse-recycle-most-all-r...

https://www.reusethisbag.com/articles/reduce-reuse-and-recyc...

http://pantheonchemical.com/reduce-reuse-recycle/

https://recyclenation.com/2015/05/history-of-three-r-s/

https://www.veolia.co.uk/nottinghamshire/recycling/recycle-n...

http://www.ecokidsusa.org/3rs.html

Hell they even had a song in a Rocko's Modern Life episode 21 years ago (and every single time someone says recycle my brain goes "r-e-c-y-c-l-e recycle"):

"R-E-C-Y-C-L-E recycle

C-O-N-S-E-R-V-E conserve

don't you P-O-L-L-U-T-E pollute the river, sky, or sea

or else you're gonna get what you deserve

The ozone is in horrible condition,

from fluorocarbons in our atmosphere.

they are too small to be seen by normal vision

but there's getting to be more of us each year

we come from a variety of places

like Styrofoam containers & aerosol cans

we love to eat the ozone it's our favorite dessert

and if you don't have an ozone then the sun can really hurt

I must admit we make a lot of garbage

this dump is filled up way above the brim

if we don't make an effort to recycle

the future could be looking mighty grim

someone's cutting down the O-town forest

it's not enough to sit around and grieve

if we don't protect our flora and our fauna

then we won't have the oxygen to breathe

R-E-C-Y-C-L-E recycle

C-O-N-S-E-R-V-E conserve

don't you P-O-L-L-U-T-E pollute the river sky or sea

or else we're gonna get what we deserve!"



Anti-landfill propaganda? Does that go along with throwing things in a garbage can propaganda? Flushing the toilet propaganda? Do people not know the definition of propaganda?


What he means is the guilt trip laid on people who don't recycle.

When I was a kid there was no recycling. Everything (except returnable beverage or milk bottles) went in the trash.

Now, the expectation is that you will sort your garbage by type and haul most of it to a recycling center where you have to handle it again and put it into designated bins. This is a lot of extra time and work and so some people (I'm one of them) end up with bags and bins full of cans, bottles, and plastic sitting around at home until I can work in a time to get to the recycling center.

I go back and forth on recycling or just throwing everything in the trash because it's too much trouble, and as one individual it doesn't really matter what I do.


I’ve never seen recycling presented as anti-landfill propaganda.


I find the comments in this thread to be counterproductive (bordering on disturbing/dangerous). Trivializing/dismissing the existence of mental disorders based on uninformed viewpoints can cause harm to others, in that they can feel ostracized and become less likely to seek the help they need. Comments like this are along the same lines as 'everybody gets depressed--you just have to choose to be happy'. Depression is a frequently a severe and life-altering disease, and I hope everyone can recognize this sort of statement as absurd.

Similarly, hoarding (as described in the article) is a cluster of persistent behaviors distinct from related disorders (like OCD). Like any cluster (esp. clusters in a high-dimensional space, like human behavior), the class membership is inherently fuzzy--everyone exists somewhere on the hoarding spectrum or OCD spectrum or ADD spectrum. But by definition very few (~6%, according to the link) people are close enough to the far side of the spectrum that it causes severe distress to themselves and others. Think of it (very loosely) like cancer--virtually everyone has some cancer cells in their body, but our protective systems are usually able to keep them in check before they run amok. But once they do, it undeniably becomes cancer.

I don't really know how to say this in a better way, but trivializing or denying the existence of mental illness is cruel and reductive, and these sorts of attitudes tend to ricochet around. Please don't participate in doing so.


As an ADHD researcher, I've found many commenters on HN to be ignorant and still highly opinionated about ADHD diagnosis and medication, which was my thesis topic. Even highly educated, very smart individuals are growing up with inherent biases against these mental illnesses which they do not know anything about except heresay and pseudo-scientific nonsense.

A recent thread on ADHD brought these people out of the woodwork, and I received many downvotes for spreading my belief that the ADHD research community is not convinced of the over-diagnosis of ADHD, which many arm-chair experts seem to take as a given. It's simply good scientific behavior to not take this for granted, to do more studying, and yet numerous STEM experts have spouted their certainty that ADHD is overdiagnosed and we're drugging our poorly parented/educated kids into submission.

I don't know much about the other mental health disorders, but I'd be willing to bet HN at large is not well-equipped to constructively discuss hoarding, OCD, or even depression/anxiety. Though, I will say I believe depression/anxiety get less stigmatized than OCD and ADHD, perhaps due to their increased prevalence and incidence in today's world.


Thank you for all your comments (across many threads) that are helping to destigmatize these issues. ADD/ADHD and stimulant treatment is an especially loaded one. A lot of peoples' personal experience with stimulants is, "oh yeah I took Adderall during finals in college and went on a giddy cleaning spree--no way we should medicate our kids with meth". Every person's physiologic response to stimulants is unique--and as you say, some people (like me) really and truly need them to function and be themselves.

That being said, I can relate to the sentiment that stamping a red ADD on a kid's forehead, loading their bloodstream with amphetamines, and sending them back to the same mismatched school environment (with little/no other plan of action) is not a recipe for success. It wasn't for me, anyways.

Perhaps my hindsight is a little distorted, but I think a more personalized and interactive educational experience would have been the single most effective way for me to blossom educationally (and consequently emotionally). My drive to learn has always been there, but the differences based on environment, subject matter, and social setting were extremely stark. I outright failed some classes and almost got kicked out of school. At the same time in other HS classes (e.g. computer programming, web design, project-based business mgmt. class), I went above and beyond. I bought a C++ game programming as a 12-year old (and I built my own computer, with a friend)--the ambition was there, but that book is still sitting on my shelf unread. No one identified that interest as something that needed adult encouragement, so my adolescent passion for programming died on the vine.

To what extent to you (or others) study this sort of thing (i.e. personalized education for ADHD kids)? In particular, I'm intrigued by the potential of things like intelligent tutoring systems, experiential education, explorable/interactive explanations (AR/VR?), biofeedback/BCI, and so on. Are you and others bullish or bearish on these sorts of technological solutions to ADHD?


Thank you for your research ADD is very near and dear to me.

Here are some questions rattling around in my ADD head, feel free to pick any that interest you:

0. High-speed porn and excessive masturbation is a widespread phenomenon of our era. When started from a young age, frequent daily orgasm releases a cocktail of neurotransmitters and hormones, with prolactin being a big one. Prolactin has been shown to inhibit dopamine as a component of the refractory period (sexual satiety) in men. Could this excess prolactin release affect cognition/executive function to the point of being mistaken as ADHD symptoms in adolescents/adults? See: https://www.yourbrainonporn.com/research/

1. Are there any bio markers to test for ADHD more conclusively?

2. Is ADHD genetic?

3. What are the long term effects of daily amphetamine usage e.g. irreversible dopamine down regulation, increased risk for Alzheimers/Dementia/Huntingtons etc.

4. Are there any new novel/promising medications currently being studied?

5. Has there been any attempts at measuring dopamine receptors in an ADHD brain vs neurotypical brain? What were the findings?

6. Is ADHD a vestigial trait from Neanderthals or, said differently, what is the evolutionary advantage that allows ADHD to propogate from generation to generation.

7. Since ADHD is linked to risk taking behavior e.g. gambling, criminal activities etc, what % of the prison population has ADHD if you had to guess?

Thanks for any responses in advance!


The idea of depression as a real disorder that requires treatment seems to be on its way to being sufficiently suffused into the public consciousness.

I don't think this is the case for things like ADHD, OCD, hoarding, misophonia, or milder forms of autism like Asperger's.


Well said.

I think the problem is not that these illnesses aren't perceived as real, but that people generally don't understand them, like you say, and too often, they are used to explain problems that have other causes. As someone who does suffer from ADD, but not severely, I totally understand how the problem can be real, but the flip side of putting every restless kid, especially boys, on stimulants is also a problem.

I would expect the HN crowd to be people who would be likely have more experience with these kinds of disorders, or at least be more exposed to people who experience them, and that they would be a little more sensitive to the reality of these disorders.


Yes--for such a searingly intelligent community, I find certain patterns of comments here to be quite jarring in their lack of nuance and understanding. It's a statistical certainty that a large number of people here have brooding mental health issues of their own that they are reluctant to address (partially due to stigma, which is why I'm trying to fight these sorts of comments--without counterslinging invectives at people).

One theory is that the typical HN reader has high 'locus of control'--the degree of belief that they have full command over the outcomes of events, and by extension their minds. In general, this is an admirable (necessary?) quality that enables us to be solution-oriented optimists with the conviction that any problem can succumb to the right combination of effort and skill--including mental illness (or symptoms/patterns indicative of the onset of such).

But when the problem is with your own mind, this attitude can lead you into a labyrinth of cognitive distortions that obfuscate your awareness and acceptance about what is actually going on:

"Depression is for suicidal/sad people. I'm just getting burnt out--I'll feel better if I turn on the afterburners and crank through this week/month/year. Then I'll take a break and clear my mind with a meditation retreat or backpacking trip."

"If I nail this side project, that will repair my self-esteem."

"I'll just vape a little bit before work, that'll tone down the anxiety."

"OCD? Isn't that like people who wash their hands down to the bone?" [opens HN --> NYTimes --> ESPN --> HN --> ..., on an infinite loop]

"This is just my personality, mental disorders are pumped up by the pharmaceutical-industrial complex to extract as much profit as possible. Therapists aren't going to help either--I can talk myself through these things if I wanted."

"What is work going to think if I leave early once a week to go to a therapy appointment? They'll get the wrong idea and think I'm crazy."

I'm not making fun of anyone here--these are the thoughts of millions of highly intelligent and self-efficacious people that are nonetheless succumbing to the siren's call of denial. Rational behavior often leads to irrational outcomes. The more time you spend in these cycles, the more ingrained these patterns become. The mental trails become well-worn, so that they're always the path of least resistance. You believe that there is no problem, that the problem will run its course over time, or that you aren't trying hard enough. These are only some of the wicked tricks of depression, anxiety, and other malware of the mind.

The difficult reality if you're deep in this labyrinth, your likelihood of navigating your way out on your own--though possible, if you're lucky--is vanishingly small--it requires courage to admit and accept that you need guidance from those qualified to provide it to you. And yes--it requires that same strong locus of control (that trapped you in this state to begin with) persist through the hard steps back towards a place of wellness. I believe there are many paths out--but there are not any shortcuts that don't lead right back to the entrance.

I myself have been through, and am going through, all of this--partially or chiefly due to a reluctance to accept that I exhibited a cluster of behavioral patterns consistent with real mental disorders (depression, anxiety, ADD, OCD), and elected to stoically sweep things under the rug, until the rug swept itself out from underneath me. I'd like to help prevent that, for others, in whatever small way possible.

So the point of all this--if you are (or think you are) suffering from an undiagnosed or untreated mental illness, or are headed in that direction--then try to accept that there is nothing wrong with you, as a human. You are just carrying around a challenging systems problem asking to be solved.


Couple of things. All it means being classified in the DSM is "now we can diagnose and bill for treatment."

Another, many commenters here are saying "Hur de hur, I have a lot of stuff, I'm such a hoarder." I have to think they have not experienced hoarding. My wife's mom is a hoarder. Literal trash fills her home and she navigates through unsafe tunnels of newspaper, disguarded food, broken things she has a pulled from dumpsters, and animal feces between her couch and the restroom. She gets distressed at the thought of removing any of it. She might do something with that broken or rotten thing one day, and not in the hack something together way.

Collectors, reusers/repurposers, and keeping things that can be legitimately used again are not hoarders. If the DSM definition includes them, it is only due to overly broad definitions to make billing for treatment easier. Take the definition of ADD; nearly every kid can fall into that definition when doing a homework assignment they don't like.


> Another, many commenters here are saying "Hur de hur, I have a lot of stuff, I'm such a hoarder."

Yeah, it's like when a person spends a single night on a friend's couch, in between apartment rentals, eats a warm meal in a safe place with friends, and cheerily posts pics of their "homelessness" on socmed.

One of my neighbors is a hoarder. He currently has 2 stationwagons parked in the street filled to the brim with garbage. (Only 2 because his daily driver, also filled to the brim with garbage, is gone at the moment.) He has a truck parked in the street with a huge specialized bed, with a volume probably equivalent to about 4 or 5 pickup truck beds, filled with garbage. He also has an orphaned trailer, parked in the street, filled with garbage. He can't park in the garage or driveway because they're both filled with garbage. The entire yard is piled high with garbage. To enter the "backyard" he has to climb about 12 feet over a mountain of garbage. I've seen him while standing at the summit. There are sharp things pointing in various ways, and a fall could be lethal.

His "home" is the domestic equivalent of a superfund site. My favorite item in his collection is the old gas station pump near the plastic pony, and my favorite activity of his is when he burns plastic. When he dies it will cost more to remove all the garbage and toxic soil than the home is worth.

I can only imagine that the inside is the unintended equivalent of a series of boobytraps, which are illegal. It would be very dangerous for a first responder to enter the structure to save him, if need be. I assume his bed is a nightmare.


I like watching Hoarders because it motivates me enough to get up and clean my room Peterson-style. Lingering and non-useful junk feel like tiny weights in my mind, so its a relief when it's gone. When you watch the show you always end up seeing a rush of fear in their face when people start removing their junk, like they have some sort of emotional attachment to the garbage. There's a stark contrast between these people and people who've just been lazy for awhile.


"... like they have some sort of emotional attachment to the garbage."

They do. That's why they're hoarders. Everything they own represents a piece of their identity- their past (childhood memories, toys, etc), their present (current hobbies and interests), their future (belief that objects will be useful someday). Removing these objects is an attack on the person's identity- and calling it trash is calling their identity, hopes, and dreams trash.

Severe hoarding is a serious mental illness.


I had an elderly neighbor that was a hoarder. We knew because of the rats (which were otherwise largely absent from that town). One day she went into the hospital for a routine surgery and her kids showed up with a dumpster. They simply cleaned out the house, exterminated, and bought her new furniture. Hadn’t seen anything like it before.


how did she react?


My ex-wife was a hoarder and I threw some of her things away while she was in a mental hospital. Cue screaming, crying, and rage that persisted for years. To her mind I had irreparably damaged the relationship.

I imagine the mother reacted the same way.


I don’t know. We didn’t see her around very much and didn’t ask her about it when we did. Seemed impolite to pry.


i think with the elderely it can often be a different symptom.


I tend to feel guilty throwing away stuff that can't be recycled (and even recyclable stuff, knowing that recycle recovery is nowhere close to 100%). As a result, I often end up hoarding stuff that I wish I didn't have, before finally getting fed up and just clearing out a bunch of stuff by throwing it away. As the article mentions regarding perfectionism, I have to be fed up enough that I'll just quickly throw away stuff instead of second guessing whether I might be wasting material that I might have a chance of finding a use for.

This is exacerbated by the fact that there is lots more to hoard today (massive amounts of junk mail, swag at every event, and product packaging getting ever fancier). I think akin to how many people suffer from a paradox of choice, I suffer from a paradox of abundance, and actually sort of wish goods and materials were scarce enough that you could put time and effort into making the most of what you have without getting overwhelmed.


I often do the same. Especially with plastic categories that are recyclable but not in all facilities / areas. I've found a local government app (in Qc) that indicates what to do with that. So for plastic category 6 i'm literally saving enough for a trip to the eco-center (not sure how it's called elsewhere).

But the really liberating thing for me is to reduce how much waste I have to get rid of. Right now this means going to shops where I can bring reusable containers for all liquids (drinking/cooking/washing) as well as avoiding places that are overly wrapping with plastics.

In Montreal some places are even starting to give discounts if you bring your own containers.


Every time you throw something away, remember it when you are about to buy something similar and then just don't.

Hard to do with packaging and containers though.


Just say no swag. I have enough tshirts already.


The article mentions something in passing that I think is important:

Potential and Value

The article only mentions it once. We live in an increasingly globalized world where our individuality can have an ever smaller impact on the enormous system. I think this drives a lot of people to have a feeling that they are living up to less than their potential and their value isn't that high. Maybe the whole system is living up to less than it's potential. But there is a lot of hopelessness about being able to influence it and our value within the system.

The reality is that much of what is horded has potential or is tied to something that had/has (like lost relatives mentioned in the article)

It seems like hording, like compulsive behaviors, allow us to create a small sense of agency in a world that constantly strips us of it and define potential and value by our own book.


Yeah, according to most of the world's apparent value systems, I am essentially human garbage as a middle aged person with no degree and a bunch of partial skills but no specialties who works menial jobs for a bit above minimum wage (or below, depending where you live).

On some level, I know I have tremendous potential, if I could find the right place to plug in. But the many complicated steps, obstacles and potential pitfalls awaiting me in that search are more than a little daunting. Also, how many of these workplaces really deserve me at my absolute very best? In my experience, rather few.

Oh well, I still have my cozy spot with all my stuff, and my niece seems to think I'm okay, so that'll have to do. Just need to keep the main rooms clear so she doesn't trip over anything. When the world's values and your own aren't aligned, pick whichever rates you higher, I say.


I hoard digital media. I have thousands of e-books, movies, TV episodes, music, and games that I will never be able to consume in my lifetime. Not to mention all the time I spent obtaining the media. It does make me slightly uncomfortable to get rid of the ones I know I probably won't consume, but that feeling is mitigated by the fact that I should be able to easily re-obtain the items if I change my mind.

I don't know if this is related to physical hoarding, since I am an anti-hoarder when it comes to physical objects -- I prefer to have fewer things as opposed to more things, and have a strong aversion to what I call "cheap plastic crap".


As long as you don't wind up spending extra money for more storage, and you don't waste lots of time organizing this media you'll never consume- well, it makes no difference whether the disk holds zeros or a movie.


Hoarding digital media has become kind of pointless with the advent of streaming services though. As a former DJ with eccentric tastes, I spent tons of time looking for, buying and cataloguing obscure music, then eventually digitizing it. But now I just listen to Spotify and Soundcloud, which already have virtually everything I ever collected and then some.

Of course, there are some gaps and the niggling sense of unease that something I like today might not be there tomorrow because of licensing changes or whatever -- but that's what cheap cloud storage is for.


> As a former DJ with eccentric tastes, I spent tons of time looking for, buying and cataloguing obscure music, then eventually digitizing it. But now I just listen to Spotify and Soundcloud, which already have virtually everything I ever collected and then some.

Not to sound elitist, but particularly as a former DJ I'd have expected you to understand that there's a huge amount of music out there not available via any streaming service (Youtube and Soundcloud rips don't count).

I agree that Spotify & Co. are a no-brainer for most listeners. Great selection, very convenient, unbeatable price. Personally and as a music collector however, I consider buying and owning music as important as ever - I'd estimate that close to a third of my collection isn't available via streaming and there's no way I'd be willing to give up those precious, sometimes rare gems. And, as you already pointed out, even content widely available today could be gone tomorrow - licensing deals end. See Netflix.


> Youtube and Soundcloud rips don't count

Why not?


Too lossy for a DJ/audiophile.


I'm "hoarding" web sites with technical information. I've got TBs of disk where I mirror things. Because I started to notice that things just.. disappear. And they're not on archive.org, or their mirror is very incomplete. I'll never need 99.99% of the stuff that I copy.

But just yesterday somebody on a forum looked for information and mentioned a web site that apparently had that info at one point.. but had disappeared. Completely.

Except that I had a copy and could hand it over.


How do you easily mirror? I tend to use pocket for articles, but even that will not last. I'm also saving some youtubes these days.


wget will do the job most of the time. At least for the sites I copy - it's mostly directories with files (documents etc).


Why don't you contribute to archive.org instead?


It's not something I could do instead - it's something I would have to do in addition. And there's some problems with that - at the time I'm copying/mirroring, the site is out there on the net. Uploading (as in direct uploading) to archive.org of sites that exists would look a bit strange, I think. But if you mean to get archive.org to mirror instead - yes, I do that too, but the thing is, you can't get archive.org to recursively mirror anything. You can point save.archive.org (IIRC - they change the URL sometimes) to a not-yet archived site (or one which needs an update), and archive.org will copy that page. You'll have to click-and-walk through every page if you want archive.org to get a full mirror. And I have done that too, with a few sites. But that's a lot of time-consuming work. Just quickly mirroring a site that pops up during a technical discussion takes all of 30 seconds to set up.


I know this is dated, but if a website changes the current robots.txt policy, Archive.org will delete all the archives in response to it and not crawl it again

https://www.webmasterworld.com/robots_txt/4898080.htm


You should set up your own archive website with plans for long term (post-mortum) servers.


I had the same attitude for some items I owned. They were now rare and hard to obtain. At the same time, I hadn't even looked at them in many years. I realized I liked the idea of having them more than actually having them. I also realized that there would never come a day where I suddenly realized I needed them and would be distraught if I didn't have them. So I threw them in the trash and I will almost certainly never care.


As a DJ, you would need that music preferably in 24-bit WAV, which is not something you get from spotify and soundcloud.


The only people I know who have profoundly cluttered homes filled with much more stuff than average had war or famine/poverty as a part of their personal history.

I'm sure this doesn't account for all cases and my sample isn't representative.

When I notice the extra items in the homes of hoarders I know, they're nothing that I haven't or wouldn't have acquired in one way or another -- they're things I would've thrown away.

I see no evidence in the article that a possible increase in (more likely recognition of) hoarding is a result of increased consumption and yet that connection is implied in the article again and again.


I seem to recognise this behaviour in my girlfriend (Thai nationality). She was from a very poor family, they didn't even have shoes to wear some of the time. Food was also very limited, sometimes she'd share a single egg with her brothers and sisters and her mother wouldn't eat. Or her father wood kill a raccoon and they'd eat a raccoon for dinner.

Now our 1.5 year old daughter probably has 20-30 pairs of shoes and every other week my girlfriend buys a new pair. Same is true for toys. Our daughter definitely gets a few new toys every month and most of it is sadly of crappy quality.

For clothes it's the same. My girlfriend has many old clothes in the drawer and buys new clothes for our daughter every month - she doesn't buy too much new clothes for herself though.

I do try to make her change this behaviour, but it's not easy and I don't want to fight over it. I am a bit worried our house will be cluttered with crap in the coming years.


Having lived in poverty, particularly as a child, was certainly a trigger for many hoarders, but it isn't the only one. We just don't understand how mental disorders are triggered.

I know that I have trouble throwing stuff away if I think I might need it, be able to use it, or be able to repair it. Part of this is probably inherited from my mother, who I think might have ended up with a house like some of those you see on TV if it weren't for my father helping to set boundaries.

While I don't think hoarding itself is genetic, it is clear that there has to be a genetic predisposition that make it easier for this type of behavior to be triggered. My mother also ended up being diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's, and I think it's a reasonable hypothesis that there's a connection, although obviously I don't have the data to prove it.


> it is clear that there has to be a genetic predisposition that make it easier for this type of behavior to be triggered.

You just described one of the major theories about the onset and progression of mental illness: the diathesis/stress theory of mental illness.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diathesis%E2%80%93stress_model

see also:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Differential_susceptibility_hy...


Around here we have a term for that which directly translates to "warchild" (or "child of war"). Mainly used for people who grew up in scarcity around WWII.

My girlfriends grandmother is often referred to as such. She has a high perceived value of things because the scarcity is ingrained in her.


Yep, my parents who grew up in communist Poland used to collect so much stuff it's unbelivable. And then I can't really blame them - during the communist times if you wanted a new washing machine or a radio you had to wait for a special coupon to buy one, or maybe you had to figure out how to get some foreign currency to buy one in special shops that sold foreign goods(the irony being that these shops sold goods for US dollars, but you couldn't legally obtain US dollars anywhere, you could only get them if someone sent them to you for instance or if you had legitimate business with the West - for which of course you had to get a special permit that was difficult to get).

So yeah, of course we always had several of everything, because "what if it breaks and you can't buy another".


> you couldn't legally obtain US dollars anywhere, you could only get them if someone sent them to you for instance or if you had legitimate business with the West

This reminds me of a funny story.

A friend of mine lived in north America while his parents in lived in Yugoslavia. This was during the war.

He would spend hours on the phone with them. He would often call them, and hang up right away, and they would call him back and talk for hours.

I finally asked him if it wasn't crazy expensive for his parents back home?

It turns out his father had a job that paid him in Deutch Marks. When the phone bill would come it would be a ridiculous sum: millions of dinars!

They would just wait for the second notice for the local currency to devalue even more (war was causing hyperinflation) so now those millions of dinars would cost pennies in DM.

They would pay it and repeat the process next month.


So I was actually reading Stanislaw Lem's biography(famous Polish Sci-Fi Author) and it's full of gems about this.

A lot of his correspondence with other authors in years 1955-1965 is about the fact that even being a recognized and "well paid" author means nothing under the communist system. What use is having hundreds of thousands of Polish zlotys, if you can't actually buy anything with them? Obviously you could use them to buy food and pay rent, but you couldn't just go and buy a new TV or a car, even though you had enough money for either - but without getting the right permissions and coupons you simply couldn't buy it.

A really interesting bit was about him having to go to Prague to collect the money for his books sold in Czechoslovakia, but he was paid in koronas - which were useless back in Poland, you couldn't even exchange them for zlotys at the time, much less for any currency that would be useful. So him and his wife basically spent 2 weeks in Prague living as lavishly as possible in that system spending pretty much everything he earned in one go - because that money was worthless otherwise. I think he said he lived for 2 weeks on a diet of caviar because that was the most expensive thing on the menu of the hotel restaurant, and he had to burn through this pile of money.

Getting Eastern Deutsche Marks for his books was slightly more attractive, because it allowed him to purchase a car that was above any ZSRR produced vehicle - a real East Germany Wartburg! Of course it turned out to be absolute crap as well, but that was the best he could hope for without finding a source of real Western money - with Dollars he could have bought a proper western car, but it was impossible to do otherwise no matter how "rich" he was.


My mom is almost entirely unable to throw things away. As a consequence, my parents have boxes and boxes of all kinds of stuff stored, including some of my toys from 20+ years ago. They live in a rather big house, but it is starting to encroach on their living space, and it does prevent them from using some of their extra rooms for their original intent, such as a dedicated washing room, so they could move the washer/dryer out of their downstairs bathroom.

Every time my dad and I try to bring up the subject of clearing all of that stuff away, she counters with claims like "but that's our winter clothes" or "as soon as I have the time", which never happens.

I've talked to her about why she tends to accumulate stuff like that, and she thinks it's because her family didn't have much when she was growing up, and her mother was a semi-functioning alcoholic. She says they often experienced simply running out of basic things, and couldn't immediately afford to replace it. So she internalized a need to keep everything around, never throw out or give away anything that still works, and always have at least one spare in storage.

They have three refrigerators (for three adults, my sister still lives at home), which are all stuffed full at all times. This leads to ~monthly rituals of cleaning out all the spoiled food, and then filling up the fridges again to repeat the cycle. When questioned on this behavior, my mom argues that they need to keep all the different spreads and stuff around at all times, because you never know what people might want to eat. We try to argue that it's perfectly OK to not have every single food you would possibly like to eat at any time available at all times, but she doesn't seem to want to agree.


I'm clearly a hoarder. As a child, I collected WWII stuff. Some, I found myself in battlefields. And some, I got through trade with other kids. And a lot of it got disassembled. Both out of curiosity, and for parts. So I had quite the collection. Basically, weapons, ordinance, hardware and electronics.

And now, I just keep broken stuff, or parts of it. Just about every display, for example, comes with a power cord (or now, brick) and data cable. Ditto with computers and keyboards. So I keep the best ~five of each that aren't in use, and donate the rest to a reuse center. I also have quite the fan collection. But I no longer save RAM, because it so rarely matches.

I also have lots of hardware. Metal stock, fasteners, etc. And scrap wood, left over from projects.

Sure, it takes up space. But I have a closet for that, and it's reasonably well organized. And if something breaks, or if I need to hack something, there's a pretty good chance that I'll have what I need.


> and donate the rest to a reuse center.

> But I no longer save RAM, because it so rarely matches

Then it's not hoarding. Hoarding isn't "I have a lot of stuff, and it's poorly organised". Hoarding is "I have too much stuff, and it's overwhelming, and I am unable to throw it away because I experience distress at the thought of getting rid of things".


Does not sound like you meet the DSM criteria for hoarding mentioned in the article. It sounds more like you are someone who likes hardware hacking and hangs on to a lot of hardware bits and pieces for that reason.


Maybe so. But my wife would disagree ;)

What did sound familiar was the sense of overwhelm. And the pattern of "don't touch my piles, because I know where everything is".

Some years ago, when we were living in an ancient farmhouse, I had a basement full of stuff. Bits and pieces of all the stuff that you need to keep an old farmhouse working.

I also maintained collections of books and documents used in research, for reference in case anyone asked. Now, at least that stuff is all on disk.


You have a closet. I have a room. There's a difference between storage and hoarding. ;)


I think the simplest explanation goes like this:

1. Hoarding is addictive behavior. 2. The Opposite of Addiction is Connection (https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/love-and-sex-in-the-...) 3. Because we currently have less connection, we have more addiction—and hoarding is one instantiation.


>Because we currently have less connection, we have more addiction — and hoarding is one instantiation.

This makes the most sense to me. Connection and attachment are correlated. If there's no connection or attachment, we'll - more than likely - attempt to replace this 'x' thing missing with 'y' tangible thing.

Edit:

I think the problem of society always needing an enemy to attack, with the ferocity the likes of which hasn't been seen in previous generations, is only part of the problem. I'm going to refer to Bill Hicks' closing speech to give a general synopsis around this[1].

[1] - https://youtu.be/tHzm01FQKEU


Granted this is a layman's perspective, but it doesn't seem like much of a mystery to me.

On the one hand we have rampant marketing pushing the idea that stuff will make us happy, and on the other we have society telling us that waste is dooming the planet.

So we have significant pressures to a) acquire things and b) not throw them out.


Yes, but those pressures are applied to everybody while only a relatively small percentage of the population becomes hoarders. There must be more to it.


There's clearly some variability in how people respond to these pressures, but an overall increase in pressure would be expected to cause more people to exhibit the dysfunctional behavior.


Some people emotionally bond with stuff just as readily as with puppies.


I was a kid when I first encountered the home of a hoarder. My mother brought me there because she was dropping off schoolwork to one of her students (a year younger than me) that lived in the home. I think that was just an excuse, I think she was concerned for the child who lived there. What I remember most vividly was the pile of toilet paper cardboard tubes. The pile was taller than I was, and wider than I was tall. That wasn't even close to the worst, but it stood out because it must have represented decades of hoarding. It takes a long time to use that much toilet paper.

That's not simple materialism. That's not loving your motorcycle like somebody loves a dog. It's a serious mental illness that shouldn't be taken lightly or brushed off.


My parents grew up in the Great Depression. My dad still hoards stuff, because he remembers when you simply couldn't get stuff. For example, he talks about re-using thread, not because they had no money to buy thread, but because there was no thread to buy because the thread factories had closed.

I wonder if the Great Recession had a similar impact on people. Staring the ruin of the financial world in the face may have left a mark on some people.


My parents did the same, but the stuff they kept was very different to what we see from a modern hoarder. They'd been through the depression, war, and rationing. My dad remembered his childhood in the 30s where there simply weren't enough clothes and shoes to go around between him and his two brothers.

None of what they kept was consumer stuff. No crap. They didn't hoard records, magazines, electronics, clothes or what have you. Financially they were comfortable and had no need whatsoever to do so.

They kept screws, bolts, string (in the string tin), paper bags (neatly folded), plastic bags. Then they were reused and repurposed. Mum unravelled old jumpers and knitted or crocheted the wool into socks, scarves, blankets. She'd darn socks and mend rips. When she watched a soap opera there was always the background noise of knitting. There was enough food in the cupboards and freezer for a month, yet they'd shop weekly and always replenish stock. Mum baked and cooked for the freezer too, which had the added advantage of being 1,000x nicer than any store bought bread or cake.

Dad kept an Aladdin's cave in the garage from old broken electricals and mechanicals. He could repair most things from what was in the cupboards and tins in there, and almost always did in preference to buying another. Clearing it after he died took forever, but was an education of an age when things were more substantially made. Every thing.

Their environmental footprint was a tiny fraction of me and my peers, though knew nothing of "environmentalism". I never quite understood why they didn't spend more, especially in retirement. I don't think they saw the point of spending, except trips and holidays. :)


Minimalism is the ideology of the rich - you don’t need to keep stuff if you know you can simply buy it again next-day shipping. Keeping stuff “in case” it’s ever needed again is the normal behaviour of normal people!


Really the rich in the UK are known for buying high quality stuff and wearing it for years Prince Charles has a favourite Barbour jacket that's 40 years old.


Is it definitely the same jacket - he only bought one originally and has never bought an identical one since?


My untested hypothesis is that hoarding is a symptom of depression. That coupled with there are just "more things" to hoard these days.


> symptom of depression

Not all hoarders are depressed. Or have OCD. Which is why it has it's own classification (from tested hypotheses).


I think there's difference between stuff piling up because you're depressed and hoarding as a disorder.


I think there's just been a general decline in mental health. The suicide rate has been increasing steadily since 2000.


Hoarding feels similar to over eating.

We need to eat but some people can't control the quality or quantity of food consumed.

Similarly, instead of collecting an appropriate amount of valuable and useful resources, they collect random nearly useless items and attach much value to them.

Could be a case of an ancient survival strategy that is no longer valid in the current environment.


You can't "control", but you can create an environment that's better or less for healthy eating. Look at the BMI difference between Japan and the US. In the US, the lobbies for processed foods have long been very strong, and it had its effects.


Sure. Perhaps we generalize them both and say that:

Modern capitalism exploits (perverts?) natural human behavior and can lead to maladaptive behavior in our current environment.


I have a family member who has mild hoarding habits and the most striking thing is the emotional attachment to the stuff. Throwing out something is felt as though it is a personal attack and a loss almost equivalent to tossing the family pet.

To blame income, capitalism, live space, etc misses the point. The items don't have to be large or important. The space doesn't have to be large. The income doesn't have to plentiful.

If there is an increase in hoarding, it's probably due to an increase in stress and anxiety in life.


> The items don't have to be large or important.

I have OCD (which isn't hoarding, but manifests in similar ways), and it's as if there is not filter. _Everything_ is of equal value. That wrapper I just discarded, or this photo of my parents - they're of equal importance.

Yes, I _know_ they're of no use, but it _might_ be (is my OCD thought process).


> Yes, I _know_ they're of no use, but it _might_ be (is my OCD thought process).

Hey, I know that "wrapper" is intended to induce eye roll. But I do save some bags and packaging. For example, laminated packaging with an Al layer + Al tape = temporary repair of a cracked roof slate.


I only recently threw away a (unused) Starbucks paper cup from ~2010. Life circumstances around the time it came into my possession made me particularly attached to an image printed on it, and thus the cup changed apartments with me twice before I finally realized it's just a dust collector and I don't care about it that much anymore.

People are weird. Myself included.


Yeah. My wife has a couple PBS "Downton Abbey" paper cups in the cabinet.


I wasn't meaning to imply that saving some packaging isn't rational (my mother does it - if nothing else, it's useful to reuse) , but when it's things I _know _ have no use (such as an individual sweet wrapper - I know rationally it has no practical use, but it still causes the same internal debate), and it's _everything_, that's when it becomes a problem.

Similarly to TeMPOraL's point - saving things that have no practical use for sentimental reasons (or just because you like them) isn't a problem (or unusual), but when every piece of paper that comes through your door feels important, it's problematic.


Funny enough, in the past days I was thinking about hoarding as a neurological disorder. It has similarities to keeping a lot of things in mind at the same time and re-iterate them over and over. The are quite a few mind-hoarders, as I call them, who basically hoard ideas and concepts to the point that they forget what is actually relevant here and now. Hoarding psychical objects might stem from the same cause inside the brain which causes the mind hoarding as well. Hence it can't be a psychological disorder alone.


This is an epic talk on the psychology of clutter by a very subtly brilliant therapist. [0] I re-listen every few months and get new things out of it every time. Many of her points are in this article, but also many more and more deeply and personally contextualized.

[0] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lu3eODhBTO4


The article mentions divorce. I would say that you can be a hoarder but live with people that help you balance against hoarding. Beyond your partner, this is also true if you don't have a social life or don't live with other people. So, nowadays degrading social life (e.g. mobile phone addiction) could be a natural cause.


The bit about hoarding not existing in the past except for gold was a real eye-roller. Stuff was expensive then so it wouldn't be abnormal and more readily pawnable. You could sell anything from old clothes to a dead horse or headless axe and get something of value from it. Virtually nothing was worthless.


No one's mentioned marketing? We're probably bombarded with more marketing than we ever have before. In addition, it's so easy to buy stuff with 1-click shopping with 2-day shipping.

It's known that web sites want to be addictive for people, but it's so they can ultimately sell people something.


Not sure that's really a deciding factor I think, at least not in the majority. Not all hoarders buy all the stuff they get. They just sweep up stuff that's free or some of them just keep candy wrappers or old newspapers. Sure, if someone is easily wooed by marketing and likes (or feels pressed to) buy stuff, this can exacerbate the problem, but from all hoarding stories the only thing that matches this was "Oh, this mustard is really cheap, better buy the whole case of 48 glasses" which was then discovered years later in the basement...


I'm not a hoarder; I just see the potential for a future use that I don't quite know of for these cardboard boxes and paper rolls. Never know when you'll need a lot of cardboard ...


Get some gerbils, they love to chew up cardboard!

It would be like one compulsive helping out another.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UGb4tqOMt1A

(Only joking people, don't buy pets unless you are ready to properly care for them from cradle to grave!)


I accept that it can be a disorder, but they don't say whether hoarding (or, 'organising' I think is more accurate) is just a natural human compulsion. From early childhood we seem to be drawn to collectible/hoardable/organisable items (baseball cards, Pogs, Pokémon, Barbies, etc). Maybe this hoarding disorder is a poor manifestation of a compulsion that we all exhibit in some way.


This describes the hoarders that I have actually known:

"But researchers have found a possible link between hoarding and PTSD among Holocaust survivors, and late-onset hoarding has often been linked to loss or trauma."

Of those I've known, all of them have had intense anxiety about their own mortality -- all of us have some anxiety about our death, but with hoarders that fear is close to the surface. I've had the impression that they hope to hold onto the past by holding onto physical objects from the past. If you keep a souvenir from a particular day, then it's as if that day has not yet ended, it will last forever.


A comment on one episode of Hoarders stuck with me: "I'm saving all this for my grandkids."

It was a mangled way of protecting him from death and the indifference of future generations.

But all it takes is a visit to a local estate sale to realize no one wants 99.9% of this junk, even your descendants.


I think there are multiple root causes which are society-wide.

One, is that the boomers were a post WWII generation and there was a huge need to keep everything, because people lost everything and much of it was unreplaceable: My parents were teenagers in London during the blitz and lost book collections, possessions being bombed out. They subsequently had kids, across the boomer window: Guess what culture we grew up in: a hoarder culture.

We experienced the 1970s oil crisis. So we kept candles and suger. We experienced periodic food and supply shortages. So we kept bulk buying.

We kept paper. We kept things. We kept old cars. We kept old electrical items. We repurposed them.

But then consumer society moved to replace, not repair. The problem is we didn't get our brains re-wired.

The other societal pressure is affluenza. We're under a huge amount of social pressure to keep buying stuff. If the rate of acquisition exceeds the rate of consumption, you can wind up accidentally in hoarder mode, stacked up with purchases "just in case"

Thirdly, social anxiety levels are skyrocketing, especially amongst the young. Anxiety feeds hoarding, because the pleasure moment in getting things is matched by the pain moment in shedding things. Its a cycle of emotional states feeding a buy-keep mode.

Fourthly, we're drowning in choice. Its a classic experiment, to offer three jams for breakfast, or twenty (if you offer twenty, people often avoid jam because deciding which is too hard). If you have too many choices, you wind up making bad choices to get "all the things" to avoid having to decide which to get. So you get two kinds of screws from the wall of twenty, or a box of twenty kinds? I went the twenty. Then, we have the choice problem disposing: which to keep and which to chuck?

Fifthly, the "dont be wasteful" moment works to stop buying but if you HAVE the thing, "dont be wasteful" says don't dispose of it. Dont "throw things away which are useful"

Disposal stores, Op-Shops, Charity shops, don't take electrical goods any more in OZ (safety risk) and don't take shoes and bedding (health risk) so these things stack up because adding them to the waste pile is "wasteful"

Society is hard sometimes. Its judgemental, and it adds pressures. These pressures feed hoarding.

Marie Kondo may be helping unwind it, but the back pressure is huge. She is a bit cult-y and maybe others have noticed what I see: people are disrespecting cleaning up, cutting down, going to 'wasteful' and 'disposable society' messages. Yes, its wasteful to buy unwanted things, and throw them away.

But we have the things, and if we stop buying the economy tanks.

What do we do?


Consumerism pops into my mind. People want more and more and at the same time are terrible at getting rid of things


Is the inverse of this extreme minimalism?


And how can hoarders actually be helped?


The psychological industry inventing new disorders and diagnosing normal human behaviors as a disorder, something that needs to be fixed.

https://www.ted.com/talks/jon_ronson_strange_answers_to_the_...


No. Clinical hoarding disorder is not normal human behavior--it causes "significant distress and/or impairment of personal functioning", by definition. Same goes with any other mental disorder.


>What’s Causing the Rise of Hoarding Disorder?

Judging by the article taking something that's gone for ages without too many problems and recategorising it as a disorder.


You must have never seen a hoarder's house. Look up pictures.


My mum's something of a hoarder. It's never been a DSM issue though.


Why is this page using 100% of CPU?


That seems unique to you. I'm not experiencing that, and I'm running vanilla chrome without an adblocker.


The unstated premise is that there is a rise in hoarding and that hoarding is a disorder. As this very article states at the beginning it was only within the last 5 years that it has been recognized as a psychological disorder. It's just as likely to be removed again depending on the profits, or not, of those seeking to exploit the idea of hoarding being a disorder.


I also doubt that it's on the rise. I always thought it to be a Baby Boomers thing because they are the last generation that suffered from material shortage in their childhood.

Similarly I believe information hoarding is a Gen X thing because we grew up in information shortage. Do Millennials download stuff? Maybe out of fun or for convenience but probably not because of the irrational Gen Xer fear that all the nice access to information we have could go away one day.

All of this is just my arm chair psychology of course.


Funny you'd say that. I keep a folder with gigabytes of youtube videos I downloaded in the event that they are removed from youtube. And, to tell you the truth, a chunk of them have actually been removed from youtube over the years!


This is why I have to laugh at people who deride older non digital technologies: film cameras (negatives last hundreds of years if stored properly), photographic prints (archive quality non acid paper last ~100s of years also.

I have 40 year old VHS tapes that are still good, vinyl records last a long time too.

Think of all these pictures we snap with our phones.

Most of them will probably be lost from disk drive failures, accidental erasure, hardware failures making them too expensive to recover, software obsolescence (pictures are on the device but they don't make the software to connect to the device any more)...

Meanwhile I have a box of family pictures, some of them from the 19th century (a few tin types), but most of them from the 20th century, that are still good most with negatives intact. I could print a brand new print of any of them anytime I want.


> Most of them will probably be lost from disk drive failures, accidental erasure, hardware failures making them too expensive to recover, software obsolescence (pictures are on the device but they don't make the software to connect to the device any more)...

> Meanwhile I have a box of family pictures, some of them from the 19th century (a few tin types), but most of them from the 20th century, that are still good most with negatives intact. I could print a brand new print of any of them anytime I want.

This is really where cloud storage solves those problems. The photos I care about are shared with friends and family and are safe from hardware failure or house fire. The only scenario they aren't great at is the inter-generational one, but if dad gives kids access it's no worse than a shoebox under the bed. They'll just have to pull stuff down into their own digital lockers before MasterCard and Google realize I'm dead.


For science: Baby Boomer, Gen X or Millennial? youtube-dl must be a common friend of ours.

But seriously: Stuff disappears, not doubt, although if I remember something I can usually still find it online. I virtually never search something in the stuff I downloaded for years, because it is just easier to dig it up online - and that is not because my archive wouldn't be accessible. If it is important for me to remember it is probably important for others to keep it online.


Millenial, and yes, I used youtube-dl. My "Favourites" playlist on youtube is full of videos that have been deleted or that were posted by accounts that were deleted or banned. But they are still safely stored on my hard disk ;)

With time I've learnt that not even archive.org is reliable for some things so I save whatever I can. Sometimes I even take screenshots of things that I may need someday.

I've never stopped to think of that as "hoarding", but probably it is. Thank God those files don't take physical space at home, though!


> Thank God those files don't take physical space at home, though!

Do you mean you are happy that the files don't take up physical space at home like books do or do you mean they don't take up space because you store them in the cloud. The last thing would really make a difference because I think it's something old people like me don't typically do.


No no, I have everything on my hard disk. I don't save anything to the cloud, I don't trust it. Someone may hack my accounts or the cloud itself and see my files, or they could ban me for storing things they don't approve of (the bane of companies nowadays: copyright, non-mainstream political views, etc.)


I don't think you read the whole article--both premises were clearly stated and extensively supported. Hoarding has long been considered a disorder, it was just rolled into OCD. However, enough of the patterns are differentiated from OCD that it can rightly be classified as a distinct disorder:

"at least 80 percent of people who engaged in extreme hoarding didn’t meet the criteria for OCD. They were more prone to depression than those with OCD. They had more difficulty making decisions. They were far less likely to be aware of their behavior as a problem. Genetic linkage studies showed a different pattern of heritability than OCD, and brain scans showed a different pattern of activation. Drugs that were successful in treating OCD were not effective for hoarding."

As for the on-the-rise component, there are multiple explanations offered, but this part struck me:

"In other words, something has changed—in history and culture—to cause hoarding to emerge as a prevalent psychiatric disorder. Objects have taken on, for those who hoard them, individual personalities with outsized emotional significance. They cannot be casually discarded; they are woven into the person’s very sense of self..."


No idea if it's on the rise or not because it could just be reporting, but hoarding is a mental disorder no doubt. Watch an episode or two of Hoarders. People are literally breaking down for having to throw away a dirty piece of trash.


I can't think of a single healthy behavior that is not occasionally taken to an unhealthy extreme by people with a disorder.

The term hoarding is problematic because it is lacking a clear line even more than other potentially pathological behaviors, there is absolutely no consensus where having some stuff that you don't exactly use daily ends and pathological hoarding begins. Even alcohol consumption seems clear-cut by comparison. Combined with the smugness of how self-congratulatory "minimalists" will look down on everybody who has slightly different standards than them, and the unfortunate coincidence that disorder (as in chaotic) shares a linguistic token with disorder (as in mental health) it makes it incredibly hard to have a meaningful discussion about the topic.

(I write "minimalist" in quotes because far too many self-identifying minimalists are not minimal at all, they are just eagerly disposing to drive their consumerism to eleven, new and shiny every time)


The disorder line is always fairly clear cut for all mental issues. The question is if it interferes with daily life not of if it’s odd.


Problem is, if I want to be a different sex, that will very much interfere with my daily life. The definition does not hold for what we currently accept.


Interference means more than just change in this context.

Being significantly afraid of flying may be irrational and unpleasant, but the line is at the point where you’re incapable of dealing with that fear.


I don't get my psychiatric news from entertainment television. Of course they make these shows as exciting and disturbing as possible to sell ads. Trying to take away anything real from them is a big mistake.


We might also consider that getting rid of stuff takes more physical and mental energy (and time) than some people have available to them. My late aunt's house may have looked like that of a hoarder, but really, she just couldn't manage to go through stuff and carry it out.


I have not doubt that it is a disorder. It isn't like it suddenly happened in the last 5 years, it simply was reclassified as its own disorder instead of a subset of OCD and less commonly anxiety or depression. This does explain an increase of incidences - but so does the show itself prompting a few folks to get help for themselves or family members.

That said, I have no doubt it is a true mental disorder. Even if it gets reclassified yet again as a subset of another disorder, it is still a disorder. It was a disorder 10 years ago too. This is true even if a few people exploit the diagnosis. This last one is kinda like someone faking cancer: Just because a few fake cancer doesn't mean that cancer is imaginary.


[flagged]


Very Freudian!

It all comes down to sex. Sex is why we gamble, sex is why we drink, sex is why women have babies!


While the comment has been flag killed, the article did actually tangentially support that claim.

> The psychological understanding is that objects are gathered in a futile attempt to fill emotional emptiness—piled up like a barricade to protect oneself against an uncertain future.

Ie, a theory is that increased loneness and lack of emotional connections with other people causes a raise in hording disorder. In a uncertain future we either need social connections to protect against the unknown, or we substitute it by building up a defense layer through objects. It is a survivor strategy that can become maladaptive.


Thanks for keeping an open mind. I’m not even sure why it was flag killed. Having open minded discussions (no pun intended) about how the mind works is beneficial to all. It is something I think about all the time, in order to better build the things I’m building.


When you don’t have a fulfilling sex life, it will make you go crazy. Anecdotally, I have seen this with both married, unmarried, single, in a relationship, etc. You substitute your sexual energy for another pursuit. See the concepts of lingam and yoni. If as a culture we could have a mature conversation about sex, you wouldn’t see these types of disorders.


Consumer capitalism caused by an infinitely exponential increase in advertising compared to any other era of human history.


For me, it was growing up with Sonic the hedgehog. I was trained that keeping as many rings as I could would ensure my survival.


If Sonic had really trained you, you'd have learned a different lesson: you can survive anything if you can keep just one ring.


It's a Symptome of schizophrenia. Not everyone with it runs around as hobo rambling. Instead you have plans, a myriad of them, and each item you got is justified by its usage by the recombination disease.


While it can be a symptom of schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder, hoarding itself isn't really a symptom of schizophrenia when by itself - just like you can have hallucinations and delusions caused by mental illness without having schizophrenia.


More disposable income and larger living space.


That alone won't cause people to have an 'uncontrolable need to accumulate everything'. Buying junk to fill a house that's too big is not the same as hoarding.

Please read the article.


> That alone won't cause people to have an 'uncontrolable need to accumulate everything'.

My fiancee's grandmother (from a post-Great-Depression era) wasted a fortune (~$500k) on ordering from late night infomercials and anything else they could buy (buried in the hoard were total gyms and horse saddles, stacks of unread subscriptions piling for decades, etc). Their house was a veritable hoarder home that only stopped filling when they ran out of money. I'll counter your "nuh-uh" with "uh huh".


That doesn't counter "That alone". A single example doesn't prove that that alone may may cause it - even within that example, there may be other factors at play.


The multiple unused copies sounds like impulse control issues coupled with memory problems.


There was no issue with memory. The subscriptions were each individually fulfilled. It was just a mass (stacks of individual magazines monthly). It was fueled by relatively disposable assets plus anxiety. Storage space is a function of assets, which is why hoarders end up with renting storage for housing their junk.




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