What Is the Fear of Throwing Things Out?

While Hoarding is Not a Phobia, the Symptoms and Treatment are Similar

Cluttered desk
Businessman on phone at messy des. Bruce Ayres

Question:

What Is the Fear of Throwing Things Out?

Answer:

Technically, the term "disposophobia" is a marketing term coined by a cleaning company in the mid-1990s to describe the fear of throwing things out. Regardless, compulsive hoarding can have disastrous effects on sufferers' daily lives. Hoarding is sometimes a symptom of obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD, but may also appear independently.

Hoarding disorder is under consideration as a new independent disorder for the DSM-V. Although not strictly defined as a phobia, hoarding has much in common with specific phobias.

Collecting or Hoarding?

While collecting is a common human behavior, hoarders take collecting to an extreme. Collectors are able to pare down their collections to the most valuable or most beloved items while hoarders experience major distress and anxiety when asked to part with even a single item. Collectors tend to focus on one or a few categories while hoarders tend to hang onto a wide variety of items. Collectors tend to choose a specific room or part of a room to display the collection while hoarders generally cover every available space with an unorganized pile of "stuff."

Hoarder or Simply Messy?

Life is so busy that many of us have trouble finding the time to properly organize our homes. Paperwork tends to accumulate, clutter builds, and toys spread out across the floor.

Some people are bothered by the mess and attack the piles whenever possible. Others are more relaxed about clutter, allowing it to grow to a sizable degree before attempting to organize it. When it becomes overwhelming, though, most people simply roll up their sleeves and get to work.

People with hoarding tendencies find it nearly impossible to curb the clutter.

Every item feels vitally important, whether for sentimental or pragmatic reasons. Trying to work through a pile of items might take hours or days, and each decision seems monumental. Many hoarders simply give up, allowing their clutter to grow until it becomes impossible to use the kitchen, take a shower, or even move normally through the house.

Getting Help

Having a real phobia of throwing things out is very different from someone who might just be classified as a "pack rat." Phobias can have debilitating effects on sufferers and can interfere with their ability to complete daily activities.

Facing the object of fear causes extreme anxiety and even panic. With hoarding, the object of fear is the act of throwing things away. Although not classified as a phobia, hoarding treatments, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, can be highly effective in helping hoarders work through the fearful thoughts and learn more appropriate behaviors.

Source:

F 02: Hoarding Disorder. American Psychiatric Association: DSM-V Development. May 19, 2010. Retrieved February 28, 2012.

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