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Hoarding Disorder

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Hoarding Disorder

Condition Basics

What is hoarding disorder?

Hoarding disorder is a mental health condition that makes a person have a very hard time getting rid of or throwing away items they own.

Over time, the items may take over the person's home. The items may cover tables, beds, counters, and floors. Hallways and rooms—including kitchens and bathrooms—may get so cluttered that they can no longer be used or kept clean.

The items are often ordinary things like newspapers, plastic containers, or clothing. But different people collect all kinds of different things. And some people collect cats, dogs, or other animals.

People with this condition may feel very ashamed or guilty about their behavior. And yet the idea of getting rid of anything is very upsetting to them.

It can be frustrating to be a family member or friend of someone who has this condition. But it's important to remember that it is a mental health condition.

Hoarding disorder is different from being a collector, even one who collects a lot of items. Collectors are proud of their collections. They are able to organize and display them. Their collections don't get in the way of everyday life.

What causes it?

The exact cause of hoarding disorder isn't known. It often runs in families. About half of all people with hoarding disorder say they have a relative who also hoards.footnote 1 A lot of people say their hoarding behavior started after a stressful or traumatic event in their life.

What are the symptoms?

The main symptom of hoarding disorder is keeping so many items that they get in the way of everyday life. People with this condition may have so much clutter in their homes that their living conditions are unhealthy.

They may also find it hard to make decisions, make plans, or stay organized.

Many people with hoarding disorder also suffer from depression or anxiety.

How is it diagnosed?

A doctor can check for hoarding disorder by asking about the person's symptoms and past health. The doctor may also do a physical exam. In some cases, a home visit may be done to help diagnose hoarding disorder.

Catching the disorder early is important. That's because hoarding often gets worse over time. And the more clutter that collects in the person's home, the harder it is for the person to do things like stay clean, eat well, and get enough sleep.

How is hoarding disorder treated?

The two main types of treatment are counseling and medicine.

Counseling involves helping the person gradually learn to get rid of unneeded possessions without feeling anxious or worried about it. Patients may also learn organization, decision-making, and relaxation skills.

Medicine can also help sometimes. The medicines that help the most are ones that are also used to treat depression and anxiety.

References

Citations

  1. American Psychiatric Association (2013). Obsessive-compulsive and related disorders. In Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th ed., pp. 235–264. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.

Credits

Current as of: June 25, 2023

Author: Healthwise Staff
Clinical Review Board
All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.

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