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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

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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. more

Have a Story of Your Own to Share?

Editor's Choice

MAY 23, 2017

What are the Negative Consequences of Hoarding in a Community

The National Law Review

Hoarding is a psychological condition where: 1) individuals have difficulty getting rid of possessions that are no longer useful; and 2) efforts to discard these possessions and not acquire new items cause distress. Television shows such as Hoarding: Buried Alive and Hoarders display in alarming detail the negative emotional and physical impact of this condition upon the individual with the hoarding disorder as well as his or her family and neighbors.

MAY 4, 2017

Special Report: Looking into the mind of an animal hoarder

News 13 WLOS

"A lot of people who accumulate pets or items are actually ashamed or embarrassed of what they got around them or they may feel unwilling to have other people around their homes for that reason. What's really driving the behavior is an anxiety or fear response. It's actually the fear that is perceived or felt by the person with the idea of discarding," Goldman said.

MAY 3, 2017

Hoarding: Root causes can be deep, finding order a challenge

The Keene Sentinel

Hoarding is more common than obsessive-compulsive disorder. People with hoarding disorder often refer to themselves as pack rats or collectors, not hoarders, because it doesn’t sound as bad. Many don’t want you to see the inside of their homes, and they may suffer from other mental problems, too. Many isolate themselves and they may be ashamed or embarrassed about what they do.

Physician Review By:

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