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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.

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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:


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


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

Lainie’s Story

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.

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OCTOBER 11, 2018

How Clutter Affects Your Brain


The frontal lobe is an important brain region that plays a part in hoarding behavior. People who tend to accumulate clutter have difficulties with their frontal lobes’ executive function, which involves a set of mental skills that helps manage time, focus attention, and generally get things done. Research on hoarders has demonstrated deficits of sustained attention, spatial planning, memory, and organizational strategies. Even people without OCD or a hoarding disorder are affected by a crowded desk, closet, or living space. Such conditions can impede ability to focus attention and process information. They concluded that clearing clutter improves a person’s ability to focus attention and process information.

OCTOBER 5, 2018

Hoarding, a big problem among the elderly, starts in childhood

Finger Lakes Times

Hoarding gets worse with age, which is why it's often associated with older adults, but it usually starts in childhood. That's what Patrick Arbore, founder and director of the Center for Elderly Suicide Prevention and Grief Related Services in San Francisco, told a group of professionals who work with seniors recently. He said people whose homes later become overwhelmed with stuff often begin having dysfunctional relationships with things between ages 11 to 15. This is an opportunity for parents to teach them how to organize their possessions and discard items they no longer need, skills that are often deficient in adult hoarders.

SEPTEMBER 26, 2018

The Link Between Online Shopping and Hoarding


April Lane Benson, psychologist who specializes in the treatment of compulsive buying disorder. Founder of Stopping Overshopping LLC. Are online shopping and all those deals turning us into a nation of hoarders? What you should know before clicking buy.

JULY 17, 2018

Dwellings strewn with garbage and waste overshadow the mental health crisis

New Hampshire Union Leader

Hoarding – the out-of-control accumulation of objects and an inability to discard them, including things others deem worthless – is a mental illness affecting at least 2 to 6 percent of the world's population. "It's really paralyzing. They just can't get rid of things," says Rachel Lakin, administrator of New Hampshire's Bureau of Elderly and Adult Services. Whatever the cause, crisis levels of clutter produce unhealthy environments that are difficult to navigate, and downright dangerous for seniors with medical and mobility issues, as well as for emergency responders trying to rescue them from overstuffed homes.

JULY 16, 2018

'Buried in Treasures' takes on hoarding

New Hampshire Union Leader

The "Buried in Treasures" workshop helps participants understand the roots of hoarding, improve their organizing and decision-making skills, create living spaces they can use, find things they've been looking for, cut back on clutter and reduce acquiring — including thrift-store hopping and compulsive bargain-hunting — and enjoy other activities instead. The program uses cognitive behavioral therapy and exposure therapy to help them change ingrained behavior.

JUNE 28, 2018

Hoarding Disorder just might be more common than you think

Millions of Americans collect so much stuff that mental health experts call their obsession a disorder. While extreme cases generate headlines, the American Psychiatric Association says as many as six percent of Americans have a form of hoarding disorder. That's 19.5 million people. That's more than the number of bipolar and autistic Americans combined.

MAY 16, 2018

Therapist Explains Behavior, Hoarding

Spartanburg Herald Journal

At a recent meeting of Mental Health America of Spartanburg County a therapist discussed the difference between normal behavior and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), as well as hoarding. Once someone is diagnosed, there is hope, he said.


Additional Resources and Organizations

Physician Reviewed

Ranna Parekh, M.D., M.P.H.
 July 2017