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On phenomenology and classification of hoarding: a review


Thomas Maier, Psychiatric Department, Zurich University Hospital, Culmannstrasse 8, CH-8091 Zurich, Switzerland.


Objective:  Hoarding is a behavioural abnormity characterized by the excessive collection of poorly useable objects. It is described mainly in association with obsessive–compulsive disorders (OCDs) and in geriatric populations. Yet the literature on the phenomenon is heterogeneous and the notion obviously lacks a consistent definition. This review attempts to describe the psychopathological and clinical spectrum of hoarding and may contribute to clarify its classification.

Method:  Systematic review and discussion of the literature on hoarding.

Results:  Hoarding is a complex behavioural phenomenon associated with different mental disorders. The psychopathological structure is variously composed of elements of OCDs, impulse-control disorders, and ritualistic behaviour. Severe self-neglect is a possible consequence of hoarding.

Conclusion:  Without further specifications the term hoarding is of limited heuristic value and cannot guide therapeutic interventions satisfactorily. The condition needs to be evaluated carefully in every particular case in relation to the aforementioned psychopathological concepts.