Hoarding can affect anyone, regardless of age, sex or economic status. It's not clear, though, how common hoarding is. That's partly because researchers have only recently begun to study it, and partly because some people never seek treatment.

Here are some risk factors and features about hoarding that researchers have come to understand:

  • Age. Hoarding usually starts in early adolescence, around age 13 or 14, and it tends to get worse with age. Hoarding may even start earlier than the teen years. Younger children may start saving items, such as broken toys, pencil nubs, outdated school papers and broken appliances.
  • Family history. There is a very strong association between having a family member who is a compulsive hoarder and becoming a hoarder yourself.
  • Stressful life events. Some people develop hoarding after experiencing a stressful life event that they had difficulty coping with, such as the death of a loved one, divorce, eviction or losing possessions in a fire.
  • A history of alcohol abuse. About half of hoarders have a history of alcohol dependence.
  • Social isolation. People who hoard are typically socially withdrawn and isolated. In many cases, the hoarding leads to social isolation. But, on the other hand, some people may turn to the comfort of hoarding because they're lonely.
May. 25, 2011