Researchers at the University of Newcastle are trying to find out what makes people hoard often useless items for long periods of time.
PhD student Mr David Foxley from the Faculty of Science and IT wants to understand the meanings and values that people attach to things they save.
"We are researching people who compulsively hoard and are overly attached to seemingly useless things and who live in homes where they can barely walk between the clutter," Mr Foxley said.
"Sometimes these people experience significant distress because they know hoarding is purposeless but they cannot bring themselves to stop."
Compulsive hoarding is often linked to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), a disease known to affect around 440,000 Australians.*
We know that up to one-third of people with OCD are likely to hoard, so potentially 150,000 Australians are living with severe clutter in their homes," Mr Foxley said.
"Compulsive hoarding can become a serious psychiatric problem with health and safety risks.
"Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) for compulsive hoarding is the current best practice treatment. With increasing numbers of people becoming overwhelmed by their possessions and seeking help, researchers and therapists hope to improve and refine this treatment."
Mr Foxley is looking for people aged 18 and over from the Hunter, Central Coast and North Sydney to participate in structured clinical interviews analysing psychological and physical conditions and to perform some basic sorting tasks.
Mr Foxley is a member of the Hunter Medical Research Institute's (HMRI) Brain and Mental Health Program. HMRI is a partnership between the University of Newcastle, Hunter New England Health and the community.
* National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing 2007