General Question

jca's avatar

Do you think that one day scientists will find that there is a gene for hoarding?

Asked by jca (29281 points ) September 7th, 2008

it seems like some people are savers, collectors, hoarders, and others are not. do you think it’s totally a matter of individual choice, or do you think there may be a gene for it?

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41 Answers

sarapnsc's avatar

I think it is a matter of individual choice. Something in their past triggers it. I don’t think there is a gene that causes it.
I think it is mental/psychological.
I knew someone exactly like this…the house was horrible and cat feces everywhere. Plus, they would continue to buy and buy and buy. It took her a while, but she started going to therapy. You wouldn’t believe the before and after look of the house. She had like 2,000 baby bottles she collected, books up to the ceiling, like 50 sheet sets, so much I can’t even begin.

Snoopy's avatar

I am fascinated w/ hoarding. I have watched enough “Oprah”-like episodes about hoarders, that I took a cold hard look at what my own house looked like. Certainly I can not be labeled as a hoarder, but as a pack rat, shall we say…

After reading a few “how to” books and “letting go” of a bunch of stuff….I feel alot better.

I am not sure if there is a gene….I think that the hoarding is definitely psychologically related. But I think that the visible manifestations of their problems are something unique to western culture. Surely, if it was genetic the same affliction would occur in a third world country’s citizens.

My point is, that I believe that the people who hoard have a problem, often depression. This expresses itself in the form of hoarding. So hoarding itself I would not believe to be genetic, but the psychological problem that causes the hoarding would be…..

Mr_M's avatar

Actually, “hoarding” is a symptom of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (“OCD”). When people think OCD they think of the guy who washes his hands all the time and, although that is ONE possible symptom of OCD, it’s not the only one. Hoarding can be another (and there are MANY others). Having said that, I think it WILL happen that the gene for OCD and hoarding will someday be discovered.

Snoopy's avatar

@Mr M. I think that is a good point about the OCD. Further, OCD is felt to be associated w/ depression. OCD, at least from a purely pharmacological perspective, is treated w/
anti- depressants.

gailcalled's avatar

Animals and Birds Who Hoard

And there’s the eponymous Magpie, who collects shiny, inedible objects.

Harp's avatar

In the August issue of Current Psychiatry Reports, there’s an article on recent research on compulsive hoarding. It states that: “It was thought to be part of obsessive-compulsive disorder or obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, but recent evidence indicates that it should be classified as a separate disorder with its own diagnostic criteria. Compulsive hoarding is a genetically discrete, strongly heritable phenotype. Neuroimaging and neuropsychological studies are elucidating its neurobiology, implicating dysfunction of ventral and medial prefrontal cortical areas that mediate decision-making, attention, and emotional regulation.”

Bri_L's avatar

I am being treated for OCD and depression and used to hoard everything. I couldn’t get over this idea that i will need something or it will be useful.

I am proud to say that I have not only been kicking hoardings ass but almost constantly checking things multiple times to.

Snoopy's avatar

@Bri….thank you for sharing. Could you also tell us…..how the OCD and depression are related, according to you doctors?

Bri_L's avatar

Well, I found out I had OCD and got real depressed. Just kidding.

Seriously, in thinking about it, I am not sure that there were really connections made in my situation.

Mr_M's avatar

@Snoopy said what the connection is. Often times, an anti-depressant is used to treat OCD. Sometimes Prozac is used for OCD (whereas it is usually used for depression) but in higher doses then what you would use for depression.

Bri_L's avatar

@ Mr M that is the truth – In my case the prozac had a very VERY bad effect in that I was allergic. I had a seriously volatile reaction to it.

Mr_M's avatar

Both depression and OCD are linked to Seratonin levels which is why the same meds are prescribed.

@Bri, Sorry to hear that. I trust they switched meds and all are OK now?

Bri_L's avatar

@ Mr M Yeah, they did. Much better. It was tough to find the right stuff but I think we did. Now we are tweaking.

Thanks much!

You know the biggest help was just finding out that I had it. Suddenly I was aware of all this stuff and could mentally fight it. For instance, checking the headlights 3 or 4 times to make sure they were off after I got out of the car, even in broad day light. I pulled out of that one before the meds kicked in just because I knew what was going on.

Mr_M's avatar

Way to go!

Bri_L's avatar

@ Mr M: Thanks

( thanks thanks thanks thanks)

A little OCD humor.

Mr_M's avatar

VERY little!

Bri_L's avatar

Sorry, I thought sense I have it I would be ok. It is part of how I deal with it.

I didn’t mean to offend.

My apologies.

Mr_M's avatar

Hey! I’m only kidding! Did you take your meds today? :)

Bri_L's avatar

@ Mr M Oh, sorry, I miss read that. I was worried I upset you.

I would never want to do that with these kind of subjects.

Others sure.

heheh

gailcalled's avatar

People who grew up poor during the Great Depression tend to hoard food. My mother is a perfect example. She still wraps up rolls, takes all the little packets of seasoning, the small bottle of catsup, etc from restaurants and has oversupplies of everything. As a teen-ager, she remembers food being scarce. We were raised watching that and swung the other way-reasonble but not profligate. The sight of a used t-bag, desiccating in its little dish, still makes me go into shock.

Mr_M's avatar

Can’t BOTH be true, i.e., she was raised during the Great Depression, HOWEVER, she is hoarding because she suffers from OCD? I don’t know anyone raised during the Depression that does this.

My mother had OCD but in those days we didn’t know about OCD. We just thought mom had some strange habits (like checking and rechecking the doors, praying over the gas jets at night (to make sure there was no gas leak), etc.

It’s not uncommon to put some rationale on irrational behaviors, especially when one doesn’t understand them.

I can also remember mom talking about some guy in the old neighborhood who used to wear women’s underpants. “His wife said he was more comfortable”. In those days, they didn’t know any better; they didn’t understand.

Bri_L's avatar

It could also be a habit born out of loss. If you have ever lost your house or possessions in a disaster.

In college I kept everything. Every scrap of paper. I was so hard up for cash I never knew what I might need.

Jreemy's avatar

Could be a gene that makes us more suceptible to picking up traits like hoarding due to experiences. A habit gene if you will.

McBean's avatar

They say that the author, James Clavell (ShoGun) hoarded cans of tuna and couldn’t resist the urge to forage through dumpsters – though he was a successful author. He had spent years as a POW in a Japanese prison camp (fictionally documented in King Rat), so no doubt he suffered from PTSD – of which one element is depression.

jca's avatar

do you guys think collecting stuff is in the same category as hoarding? just wondering.

McBean's avatar

No, I don’t think so. It’s a matter of degree, though. There is an element of desperation and lack of discretion with hoarding. Most collectors are picky and precise about what they want to add to their collections. I repeat the word “most”.

Bri_L's avatar

I don’t think it is. There can be an obsesive quality about it, but your focusing on an individual thing. Although, I know people who have a large number of collections, plates, owls, hummles. That is kinda creepy.

Mr_M's avatar

@Bri, I suspect it wasn’t “a habit born out of loss” at all. It was the OCD you’ve been diagnosed with. You probably had it at that time but didn’t realize it. It wasn’t until it became extreme that you recognized it to be a disorder.

Bri_L's avatar

@ Mr M – I was speaking more of tragic loss, like the depression, prison camp survivors, tragedy and the like.

gailcalled's avatar

@Mr M: I am sure that hoarders can have OCD and vice versa. In my mother’s case, she was and is a only a hoarder, regifter, and a cheap-skate towards others in general. She was also a narcissist and was thrilled with the jewels and furs my father gave her. I have memories of sitting (fuming) in the back seat of a Mercedes, while she drove around in a fur coat, looking for parking meters that had money in them.

And she feels very anxious if she doesn’t have several months supply of paper products, tuna, crackers, peanut butter..but not several years worth.

Many of her contemporaries at her Staged Care facility in save food, in case. The dining room provides little plastic bags so that those three fries or 1/2 English muffin don’t go to waste.

Carol's avatar

Hello JCA.

Though many have answered the question already, as a practicing clinical psychologist, I’d like to give it a shot.

I thoroughly disagree with those who diagnose this condition as OCD. It may have similar characteristics in a small percent of the population but the majority of horders are people with ADHD.

They cannot make a decision about what to keep, where to put it and whether or not to throw it away. Since sorting (leading to disposing of) is a rather dull task, the mind wanders and suddenly it seizes upon something interesting either in the heap that’s being sorted and thrown out or somewhere else in the external environment. The throwing out stops. Time stops. All energy is then directed toward the new more interesting task.

It is most certainly genetic. The upside of ADHD is that they are enormously creative people and when they find their nitch they can be hugely successful. I must say, its hard on a marriage. If they choose a partner who is orderly and can throw things away, it leads to much conflict. If they choose another “creative” with ADHD, their environment is always a mess unless they can put external systems in place such as cleaning help and professional organizers.

Bri_L's avatar

@ Carol – Welcome to fluther.

I am very glad and thankful to have your input. I didn’t intentionally mean to mislead anyone. I was just relaying what I had experienced.

@ Carol – Welcome to fluther.

I am very glad and thankful to have your input.

I believe, in my answer, I indicated that my doctor never made a connection between the two. Nor would I ever claim to diagnose something. I am medial subject at best, not a doctor. But I did indicate that I myself connected the habit of keeping things with OCD. I don’t know why in my mind I did but when we started treating it I started beating it.

Mr_M's avatar

@Carol, I STRONGLY disagree with you. It’s accepted by the Mental Health community that hoarding is generally linked to OCD.

The caveat is that people may exhibit OCD BEHAVIORS without having OCD, such as the individual who checks and rechecks his front door.

And as for how hard it is on a marriage, one can’t make blanket statements like that (whether we say it’s a form of OCD or ADHD) either. It depends on what the manifestations are, if the patient is being successfully medicated and the degree of stress the patient undergoes, i.e., stress being the source of OCD manifestations.

Harp's avatar

Re: “It’s accepted by the Mental Health community that hoarding is generally linked to OCD”

I don’t know about that, Mr. M. That may have been the case historically, but as my comment above (which seems to have gone unnoticed) indicates, recent research is tending to suggest that the link to OCD isn’t as strong as had been supposed.

Mr_M's avatar

@harp, what YOU said and what I said and what @carol said are THREE DIFFERENT things. It’s interesting that the schools of thought MAY be changing, but “historically”, “traditionally”, anyway you want to call it, hoarding has been linked to OCD. That’s a fact.

I WELCOME new findings.

Harp's avatar

Mr. M, compare Carol’s statement, “They cannot make a decision about what to keep, where to put it and whether or not to throw it away. Since sorting (leading to disposing of) is a rather dull task, the mind wanders…” to this quote from my comment, ”...implicating dysfunction of ventral and medial prefrontal cortical areas that mediate decision-making, attention, and emotional regulation.”

Are Carol and I really talking about two different things?

Mr_M's avatar

My friend, this isn’t something I want to get into an argument with you about. Whatever you say! Disregard the fact that YOU said it may be “a separate disorder with its own diagnostic criteria” but Carol said it was linked to ADHD. Just the same, You’re right! You’re right!

jca's avatar

Bri: why are you telling her you’re not a doctor? you are a doctor!

Carol: welcome to fluther. it’s a great site and the more you get into it, the more you’ll get into it. i am staying out of the above argument, and/but what you said is very interesting. something to ponder.

Bri_L's avatar

Im your doctor. That is different.

Carol's avatar

Mr. M!

I believed I gave a state of the art answer about OCD and hoarding. Of course it wasn’t historical. Who needs old information? I belong to many psychiatry and psychology associations and mail pours into my inbox. The topic is the differential diagnosis of ADHD and OCD. Its actually quite difficult to tease apart and certainly any mental health community that is current is aware of this.

Harp's avatar

@carol
I don’t think M was directing the “historical” comment to you. He was responding to a comment I made earlier

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