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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:

rodriquez-expert.jpg

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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APR 5, 2019

How to Identify and Help a Hoarder

Philly Voice

With spring in the air, many people find themselves compelled to toss out old junk, donate unused clothes, and welcome the warm weather with a clean house. For others, this isn’t so easy. When people struggle with severe emotional attachment to their belongings, “spring cleaning” feels impossible—an emotionally draining, unwinnable battle. There’s a name for this compulsion to save and collect things on a massive scale, regardless of their perceived value: hoarding. It’s important to keep in mind that this condition is a lot different from being a run-of-the-mill clutterbug. Hoarding is complex and sometimes dangerous mental disorder that affects roughly 1.4 million people in the U.S. 

MAR 29, 2019

Experts Discuss the Psychology Behind Collecting, Hoarding

HJ News

“One of the biggest differences between hoarders and collectors is that the emotions are typically tied to one specific item or type of item,” Ong said. “For both, there is some type of association between the object and a memory, however, with hoarding, that association applies to everything.” Ong said that shows like “Hoarders” create a stigma around individuals with a hoarding disorder, and she wants to dispel it. 

MAR 22, 2019

Twin Cities metro cities try carot, stick to deal with hoarding, avoid evictions

Star Tribune

As city and county officials enforce codes designed to keep residents safe, they often confront mental and physical disabilities, aging and poverty. For those unable to make fixes themselves, the best-case scenario is finding someone — often through a nonprofit or government agency — who can help. 

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Physician Reviewed

Ranna Parekh, M.D., M.P.H.
 July 2017