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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.

See definition, symptoms, & treatment

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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)

Lainie’s Story

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Lainie was a 47-year-old single woman referred to a community mental health team for treatment of depression and anxiety. She had never taken any psychiatric medication but had undergone CBT for depression 5 years earlier. more

Have a Story of Your Own to Share?

Editor's Choice

FEB 17, 2017

When things become too much: How to help a hoarder

Chicago Tribune

Experts say people hoard for a variety of reasons. Items might carry emotional significance — a reminder of a happy time, for example. Or they may be thought of as being necessary at some point in the future. Holding onto these objects confers a sense of safety. Driven by an unrelenting urge to save things, people who hoard can feel extreme distress at the mere thought of throwing something away.

FEB 15, 2017

Are you hoarding? Groups can help you

Green Valley News

Bowles suffers from what is now recognized as a mental health issue — Hoarding Disorder. People with the disorder have a conscious, ongoing urge to accumulate possessions. Along with that are corresponding feelings of anxiety or mental anguish whenever those possessions get thrown away. As a result, their living spaces fill up and homes become storage sheds.

FEB 13, 2017

Impairments in Executive and Everyday Function in Older Adults with Hoarding Disorder

Psychiatry Advisor

Older adults with hoarding disorder (HD) experience increased impairments in skills related to executive and daily functioning, compared with younger adults with HD, according to new research published in the December 31, 2016 issue of International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.

Physician Review By:

Ranna Parekh, M.D., M.P.H.
November 2015