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Help With Hoarding Disorder

Curated and updated for the community by APA

People with hoarding disorder excessively save items that others may view as worthless. They have persistent difficulty getting rid of or parting with possessions, leading to clutter that disrupts their ability to use their living or work spaces.

Hoarding is not the same as collecting. Collectors look for specific items, such as model cars or stamps, and may organize or display them. People with hoarding disorder often save random items and store them haphazardly. In most cases, they save items that they feel they may need in the future, are valuable or have sentimental value. Some may also feel safer surrounded by the things they save.

Hoarding disorder occurs in an estimated 2 to 6 percent of the population and often leads to substantial distress and problems functioning. Some research show hoarding disorder is more common in males than females. It is also more common among older adults--three times as many adults 55 to 94 years are affected by hoarding disorder compared to adults 34 to 44 years old.

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There have been a number of TV shows and other media coverage about people with hoarding behaviors. Has this changed the way people in general view hoarding disorder or peoples’ willingness to get help?

TV shows have raised awareness of the devastating impact hoarding behaviors can have on the individual and their loved ones. It is important for those affected to understand that TV shows, by their nature, may not capture all the time, effort and hard work that is a necessary part of any mental health treatment program. Hoarding, which became a new diagnostic entry in the DSM in 2013, affects about 2-6 percent of individuals. People with hoarding disorder have difficulty parting with possessions, clutter that interferes with normal functioning and marked distress and impairment. More

Are there early signs that a person may have hoarding disorder? Is it primarily a problem among older adults?

Initial start of hoarding symptoms is thought to happen in childhood or adolescence (typical onset is around age 13) and it is chronic and progressive. Hoarding is more common in older than younger age groups.

Below are some early signs that an adolescent may have hoarding behaviors. These behaviors are typically mild, and progress over years. They may become a severe problem in adults in their 50s. However, not every person with hoarding symptoms has a hoarding disorder.

  • Difficulty letting go of things (throwing away, selling, recycling, giving away)
  • Clutter that makes it difficult to move easily throughout the home
  • Piles of items that keep tipping over (newspapers, magazines, mail)
  • Sleeping with items on the bed
  • Trouble organizing and categorizing
  • Trouble making decisions
  • Spending time moving things from pile to pile without letting go of items
  • Problems with attention
  • Excessive shopping or collecting free things
  • Not realizing the seriousness of the problem More

About the Experts:

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Carolyn Rodriguez, M.D., Ph.D.
Director, Stanford Hoarding Disorders Research Program
Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University School of Medicine

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Randy O. Frost, Ph.D.
Professor, Smith College
Member, Scientific & Clinical Advisory Board, The International OCD Foundation (IOCDF)

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Editor's Choice

OCT 1, 2020

What items are most commonly hoarded in UK homes?

Somerset Live

Almost half of us, 49 per cent, admitted to hoarding something.  Magazines were revealed as the most commonly hoarded item by Brits, followed by DVDs/VHS tapes and plastic bags. The platform has also shared guidance on how to identify a hoarding disorder and tips for getting rid of unused items. When delving into the results further, the marketplace discovered that a quarter (27%) of participants have noticed an increase in their ‘hoarding’ during lockdown, with nine in ten (92%) of those confirming the surge is due to anxiety around food and product shortages. 

SEPT 24. 2020

How Why Do Some People Hoard Things?
The Swaddle

What are the motivations behind hoarding stuff that often lack monetary, or even functional, value? A 2011 study suggests that the struggle to get rid of things, can be linked to an individual’s self-worth and there are other motivations. For those who need help getting rid of material possessions, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT, is recommended. It is, in fact, believed to more useful than medication, especially if it involves a therapist visiting the hoarder’s home, and helping them through consistent behavioral programs aimed at de-cluttering.  

SEPT 24, 2020

Jennifer Howard’s Clutter Is a Call to Clean It Up
Washington City Paper

The new book, Clutter: An Untidy History, explores consumerism and makes the case to rein it in. How and why stuff accumulates is the subject of Jennifer Howard’s new book Clutter: An Untidy History. It begins with her cleaning out her mother’s home—an experience many people of a certain age are familiar with. The book then tackles hoarding disorder, the Victorian roots of consumerism, the history of mail-order catalogues leading to today’s Amazon Prime, how controlling clutter has historically been “women’s work,” and the problem of waste and how it damages the environment. Clutter thoroughly unpacks the topic.  

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Physician Reviewed

Ranna Parekh, M.D., M.P.H.
 July 2017