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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

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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JAN 15, 2018

Area Agency Hoarding therapy Groups for Seniors Begin in February

City Sun times

Registration is open for Area Agency on Aging hoarding therapy groups for Maricopa County residents 60 and older challenged by compulsive object hoarding and who are willing to self-identify and commit to addressing the disorder. The 14-week confidential and voluntary Too Many Treasures Hoarding begins in February.

JAN 8, 2018

Beyond Clutter - Compulsive Hoarding

Burlington Times-News

Only in the past few years have researchers begun to study compulsive hoarding, also known as hoarding disorder, which is defined as “a pattern of behavior that is characterized by excessive acquisition and saving of items that have little or no value and an inability or unwillingness to discard these objects that cover the living areas of the home and cause significant distress or impairment.” This condition is prevalent in up to 5 percent of adults, with symptoms usually appearing in childhood and worsening with advanced age. People who experience depression, anxiety and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder appear to be more susceptible.

DEC 1, 2017

Uncovering the dangers of hoarding disorder

The Boston Globe

The fire last February that killed 86-year-old Beverly resident Renee Mary – known as “The Duck Lady” because she would stop traffic to shepherd birds across busy Hale Street at Endicott College – put the spotlight on the local hoarding disorder issue among the elderly. But what they found when they came to battle the blaze was nothing new to the city’s firefighters. In 32 years, Fire Chief Paul Cotter recalled two other calls when firefighters had difficulty entering because doors were obstructed by clutter. Many other times, they witnessed similar conditions during a wellness check or a medical call.

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Physician Reviewed

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