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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 2-6 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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Editor's Choice

June 19, 2020

Psycholog
Study finds link between hoarding and ADHD p

Medical Xpress

Our results suggest up to one in five adults seeking help for ADHD may also have issues with hoarding that impair their everyday life. Those who hoarded were on average in their late 30s, and we found no relationship with gender," said Dr. Morein. 

June 9. 2020

How My Mum's Hoarding Affected My Childhood
Vice

“Rotting food was a regular part of my home environment... My earliest memories include clutter.” Ceci was aware that her living situation wasn’t ordinary but it took decades to understand and get a language for what she had experienced growing up with a mother who had hoarding disorder. Ceci is now 43 and she’s spent the majority of her life trying to understand hoarding.  

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A New Psychotherapy Approach Offers Hope for Treating Hoarding Disorder
Discover

For many, hoarding is a deep, dark secret. But researchers are still unraveling the disorder’s mysteries — and coming up with new treatments. Although CBT is the traditional treatment, a 2019 pilot study evaluated a follow-up treatment called compassion-focused therapy. The study concentrated on CFT because of its ability to help regulate a patient’s emotions and improve their self-perception. CFT helps patients recognize their behavioral and thought patterns and teaches them how to self-soothe.  

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Physician Reviewed

Ranna Parekh, M.D., M.P.H.
 July 2017