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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 2-3 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?

The initial start of hoarding symptoms is thought to happen in childhood or adolescence (typical onset is around age 16) and it is chronic and progressive. Hoarding is more common in older than younger age groups.

Below are some early signs that an individual 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.
Associate Chair and Associate Professor
Director, Stanford Hoarding Disorders Research Program
Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
Stanford University School of Medicine
Member, Scientific & Clinical Advisory Board, The International OCD Foundation (IOCDF)

frost-expert.jpg

Randy O. Frost, Ph.D.
Harold and Elsa Siipola Israel Professor of Psychology
Smith College
Member, Scientific & Clinical Advisory Board, The International OCD Foundation (IOCDF)

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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.

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Editor's Choice

JAN 10, 2021

Dear Annie: Sister’s hoarding disorder shouldn’t be taken personally

The Oregonian

Almost Dear Annie: My sister is 75 years old. She is a hoarder. She has lived at home her whole life and started accumulating junk soon after my dad died 10 years ago. If something comes into the house, it isn’t going out, as it is with most hoarders. So, you can imagine what an appalling situation it has become.
Dear Snuffed Out by Stuff: Hoarding is a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder. The disorder does not operate in the realm of logic. You can’t reason with it. And you shouldn’t take it personally -- because as much as it might seem to you that your sister is choosing her stuff over you, she’s not really choosing anything at this point. She’s simply acting on compulsions ges. 

JAN 7. 2021

Why Do Some People Hoard Things?
Moms.com

Along with being a difficult disorder to live with, hoarding disorder can also have a huge impact on your kids. Here's what you need to know. Every house gets messy sometimes. Life happens and with kids, that comes with the mess. Hoarding disorder is defined as "a persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions because of a perceived need to save them," according to the Mayo Clinic. Along with being a difficult disorder to live with, hoarding disorder can also have a huge impact on your kids. Here's what you need to know.  

NOV 28, 2020

A psychiatrist explains why stockpiling and panic buying during the pandemic isn't the same as hoarding
Washington City Paper

Hoarding disorder is a psychiatric illness that makes it difficult to discard everyday items that are no longer needed and can lead to unstable living conditions and difficulty with self-care, explains psychiatrist Carol Mathews. Stockpiling and panic buying during the pandemic are not signs of hoarding, Mathews says — they're expected, impulsive behaviors by people who are preparing for a known shortage or crisis.  

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Physician Reviewed

Ranna Parekh, M.D., M.P.H.
 July 2017