Everything You Need To Know About Hoarding Disorder
Contrary to what reality TV portrays, hoarding disorder is a serious—and often dangerous—mental health condition
January 24, 2022
Hoarding disorder is a mental health condition characterized by saving items that appear to have little or no worth, often accumulating magazines, mail, newspapers, and old clothing.
Between reality TV shows and common misconceptions about the condition, hoarding disorder is deeply misunderstood by many. People with hoarding disorder find themselves accumulating items to the point where the objects overrun their living spaces.
On top of emotional and mental health concerns, hoarding disorder can present a physical danger to the person struggling with the condition and the people they share their home with.
Living in unsafe conditions and having clutter accumulated throughout your home is a quality-of-life issue. Stress, shame, and anxiety are just some of the feelings that can accompany this serious mental health issue.
However, there is no need to feel ashamed. According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), hoarding disorder affects approximately 2.6% of all adults, with similar symptoms and incidence occurring across countries, cultures, and genders.
The clutter that results can present safety and health concerns. It can create emotional distress in the person with the condition, as well as in family members and friends. Hoarding disorder often co-occurs with other mental health conditions.
It’s important to understand what hoarding disorder looks like so you can recognize if you or someone you know should seek help.
Keep Reading To Learn
- How to recognize the signs of hoarding disorder
- Which factors contribute to developing hoarding disorder
- How to successfully manage hoarding disorder
The Signs and Symptoms of Hoarding Disorder
Saving excessive numbers of random objects is the first sign of hoarding disorder. Gradually, clutter may build up until there’s no living space. Since this happens over time, it may go unnoticed until someone points out how cluttered an area has become.
Symptoms of hoarding disorder can begin as young as the early teen years. As time goes by, symptoms tend to become more severe and harder to change.
People with the condition continue to accumulate things even when they run out of room or don’t need the items. Because people with hoarding disorder often store objects in their homes, it can be some time before others find out that someone is hoarding.
Many people with hoarding disorder may avoid letting other people enter their homes. This can lead to isolation, which further worsens many mental health issues.
Signs and symptoms of hoarding disorder include:
- Excessive accumulation of items with limited or no space to store them
- Difficulty parting with possessions of trivial value
- Compulsion to save items or feeling upset if someone suggests throwing them out
- Accumulating clutter until it’s difficult or impossible to move in living spaces
- Indecisiveness, avoidance, procrastination, and disorganization
Accumulated items pose a tripping hazard. If there’s an emergency, first responders may not be able to access rooms in the home if there are too many items in the way. Clutter in the kitchen or bathroom may make it extremely difficult to cook or bathe.
Trying to live in overly cluttered rooms can create stress for members of a household.
It can also cause conflict: others may want to remove items that are important to the person who is hoarding things.
Collecting Items vs. Hoarding: What’s the Difference?
People with hoarding disorder may describe themselves as over-enthusiastic collectors. However, this isn’t true for several reasons.
Hoarding disorder involves difficulty parting with any possessions. If someone with the condition tries to discard items, they experience deep distress. Therefore, they begin to accumulate these things in their homes and other places.
Collectors, on the other hand, acquire items and organize them in an intentional way. Collectors often want to obtain specific objects that ultimately can be passed on to others or sold for monetary value. Although they may not use the objects, they’re able to display them for others to admire.
Hoarding disorder is typically impulsive, lacks organization, and rarely involves giving up items once obtained. While not all hoarding behavior is disruptive, many people with the disorder feel ashamed of the clutter in their homes and intentionally do not show it to others.