Compulsive Hoarding Food
Compulsive hoarding is a mental disability marked by an obsessive need to acquire and keep things resulting in the accumulation of excessive clutter. Often times the clutter gets to the point that parts of the individual’s home can no longer be used for their intended purpose. The items that the person collects differ from person to person and are often considered worthless, hazardous, or unsanitary. Some of the things that people collect include newspapers, magazines, books, garbage, food and even pets. The compulsive collection and ownership of pets is known as animal hoarding.
Compulsive hoarding is thought to fall along the spectrum of obsessive-compulsive disorders. Like other obsessive-compulsive disorders, hoarding may be a common response to fear. Oftentimes hoarders collect items because they are fearful that they may lose something important by discarding it. Amazingly, giving away possessions can provoke grief-like reactions in some compulsive hoarders. Such fears of loss appear to stem from an exaggerated responsibility of being prepared for eventualities and of not wanting to waste things. Compulsive hoarders also have trouble making even small decisions, like what to wear or what to eat. Since hoarding does run in families, it could be influenced by modeling behavior or transmitted genetically. Some researchers suggest that compulsive hoarding may be associated with deprivation in early life especially when it comes to hoarding food.
Compulsive hoarding of food has its own particular set of problems. Rotten food or contaminated food containers can become a health hazard that can cause illness and attract pests like flies, roaches, mice or even rats. In May of 2010, an aging Chicago couple was trapped for two weeks in their home after being buried in their belongings. When the couple was finally rescued, they were found to have rat bites on their bodies. Many hoarders do not feel that their accumulation of clutter is a problem. They may think their hoarding behavior is sensible and that saving things is beneficial. They even become oblivious to the odors of moldy food in various stages of decay and the grave health implications this carries.
While everyone is different and may hoard for different reasons, it is believed that those who hoard food do it as a result of past experiences. Sometimes it is because the person has gone through significant neglect as a child. They may have experienced having their basic needs for life sustaining food denied or inadequately met. Food hoarders will rationalize keeping a particular food item even if it is expired. They are often in denial about the harm they are doing to their own bodies from eating expired foods. There is also a misjudgment on their parts in regards to being able to stop buying food or going after foods that are on sale. Ironically, individuals who are compulsive food hoarders often waste more food then the average person because they allow uneaten food to become moldy and uneatable or the food gets lost in the clutter.