Hoarding: Is It a Mental Illness?

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Do you ever feel like your attachment to certain things is as strong as a magnet pulling you in? Well, you’re not alone.

In this article, we’ll be diving into the world of hoarding and exploring the question: ‘Hoarding: Is It a Mental Illness?’ Hoarding disorder is a complex condition that affects millions of people worldwide.

It involves the excessive accumulation of items, often leading to unsafe living conditions. But what causes someone to develop this disorder? And what impact does it have on their mental and emotional well-being?

Throughout this article, we’ll be unraveling the symptoms, causes, and treatment options for hoarding disorder. By shedding light on this misunderstood illness, we hope to provide a better understanding and support for those affected.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

To diagnose hoarding disorder, a mental health professional assesses your hoarding behaviors and the distress associated with difficulty discarding possessions. This mental health condition is characterized by the excessive saving of items of little or no value, leading to unsafe living conditions and physical dangers. Symptoms of hoarding disorder can range from excessive acquisition of items to difficulty getting rid of things.

One of the main symptoms is the gradual accumulation of clutter in living spaces, which becomes more severe and difficult to treat with age. In order to receive a diagnosis of hoarding disorder, the individual must exhibit difficulty discarding possessions and experience distress associated with it. Additionally, there needs to be an accumulation of possessions that clutter living areas.

Hoarding disorder can cause significant impairment in daily life, affecting relationships, social activities, and health and safety concerns.

Causes and Risk Factors

Continuing from the previous subtopic, you may be wondering what causes hoarding disorder and what factors put individuals at risk. Understanding the causes and risk factors of hoarding disorder can shed light on this complex mental health condition. Here are three key factors to consider:

  1. Family history: Individuals with a family history of hoarding disorder are more likely to develop the condition themselves. This suggests a genetic component to hoarding behavior.
  2. Distress and emotional attachment: Hoarding often stems from deep emotional distress and difficulty parting with possessions. The distress experienced when trying to discard items can contribute to the accumulation of belongings.
  3. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT has been found to be an effective treatment for hoarding disorder. This therapy helps individuals challenge and change their thoughts and behaviors related to hoarding, providing them with practical strategies to manage and reduce their hoarding tendencies.

Treatment Options

If you or someone you know is struggling with hoarding disorder, there are several effective treatment options available.

Hoarding disorder is recognized as a mental illness in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

Treatment options for hoarding disorder typically involve a combination of therapies and interventions. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is often used and focuses on changing unhealthy thoughts and behaviors related to hoarding. It helps individuals develop skills for organizing, decision-making, and reducing acquiring behaviors.

Medication, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), may be prescribed to target co-occurring conditions like depression or anxiety.

Support groups can provide a network of individuals who understand the challenges of hoarding disorder.

Mental health professionals, including psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and occupational therapists, can offer specialized help for hoarding disorder.

Prompt intervention and treatment are crucial in improving daily functioning and living conditions for individuals with hoarding disorder.

Co-occurring Mental Health Conditions

When individuals have hoarding disorder, it’s common for them to also experience co-occurring mental health conditions. The complex nature of hoarding disorder often leads to the presence of other mental illnesses alongside it.

Here are three key points to consider regarding the co-occurrence of mental health conditions with hoarding disorder:

  1. High co-occurrence: Approximately 75% of people with hoarding disorder also have a mood or anxiety disorder, indicating a significant overlap between hoarding disorder and other mental health conditions.
  2. Range of co-existing conditions: Other conditions frequently coexist with hoarding disorder, such as OCD, PTSD, dementia, and ADHD, highlighting the diverse range of mental health conditions that can be present alongside hoarding disorder.
  3. Comprehensive treatment approach: The presence of co-occurring mental health conditions necessitates a comprehensive treatment approach that addresses both hoarding disorder and the co-existing conditions. This often includes a combination of therapy, medication for co-occurring disorders, and other supportive interventions.

Understanding the co-occurrence of mental health conditions with hoarding disorder is crucial for accurate diagnosis and effective treatment of individuals struggling with this complex mental illness.

Prevention Strategies

To prevent hoarding disorder, you can start by creating a supportive environment that encourages organization and limits the accumulation of unnecessary items. This is essential for maintaining the health and safety of individuals living with hoarding disorder.

It’s important to understand that hoarding is a mental illness and that prevention strategies should focus on addressing the underlying psychological factors contributing to the behavior. One effective prevention strategy is to provide education and awareness about hoarding disorder to individuals at risk, their families, and the community. This can help reduce the stigma associated with hoarding and encourage early intervention.

Additionally, implementing regular decluttering sessions and setting clear boundaries for the acquisition of new items can help individuals with hoarding disorder manage their possessions more effectively. It’s crucial to approach the distress associated with discarding items with empathy and provide support throughout the process.

Complications and Associated Procedures

Complications that can arise from hoarding disorder include health and safety hazards, strained relationships, and difficulties in performing daily tasks. These complications can have a profound impact on the individual’s well-being and overall quality of life. Here are the specific complications associated with hoarding disorder:

  1. Health and Safety Hazards: The excessive clutter and unsanitary conditions often found in hoarded homes can lead to a variety of health issues. Mold, dust, allergens, and pests can accumulate, increasing the risk of respiratory problems, infections, and allergies. The clutter can also pose physical dangers, such as tripping and falling.
  2. Strained Relationships: Hoarding can strain relationships with family members, friends, and neighbors. The clutter can make it difficult for others to visit or feel comfortable in the hoarder’s home. Conflict may arise due to disagreements over the hoarding behavior or attempts to clean and declutter the space.
  3. Difficulties in Performing Daily Tasks: Hoarding can make it challenging to perform everyday tasks, such as cooking, cleaning, and personal hygiene. The clutter can obstruct access to essential items and make it difficult to maintain a functional living environment. This can lead to a decrease in overall self-care and an increased reliance on others for assistance.

These complications highlight the urgent need for treating hoarding disorder. By addressing the underlying mental illness and providing appropriate support, individuals with hoarding disorder can improve their health, relationships, and overall functioning.

Living With Hoarding Disorder

Your living situation with hoarding disorder can have a significant impact on your daily life and overall well-being. Living with hoarding disorder often means dealing with cramped living conditions, narrow pathways, and cluttered surfaces. These conditions can make it difficult to perform basic tasks such as cooking, cleaning, and even moving around your own home.

The excessive accumulation of items can result in a lack of space, making it challenging to find necessary belongings or maintain a sense of organization. The distress that comes with trying to discard items can further exacerbate the difficulties of living with hoarding disorder.

Additionally, hoarding can extend beyond the home to areas like the garage and yard, further affecting your daily functioning. Seeking help from healthcare or mental health providers, as well as specialized agencies, is crucial in addressing hoarding issues and improving your quality of life.

How to Help a Loved One With Hoarding Disorder

You can play a crucial role in supporting and assisting a loved one with hoarding disorder by understanding their challenges and offering empathetic guidance.

Here are three ways you can help:

  1. Educate yourself: Learn about hoarding disorder and its symptoms, causes, and treatment options. Understanding the condition will enable you to approach the situation with empathy and knowledge, helping you provide the right support.
  2. Be patient and non-judgmental: Avoid blaming or shaming language when discussing the hoarding behavior. Use ‘I’ statements to express how the behavior affects you personally, fostering trust and acceptance. Remember that hoarding disorder is a mental illness, and your loved one needs compassion and understanding.
  3. Assist with resources: Encourage your loved one to seek professional help from mental health professionals experienced in treating hoarding disorder. Support groups and local agencies can also provide valuable tools and support for recovery. Offer to assist in finding appropriate resources and accompany them to therapy sessions if they’re open to it.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Hoarding Considered a Mental Illness?

Yes, hoarding is considered a mental illness. It is characterized by excessive saving of items, leading to unsafe living conditions. It affects about 2.6% of adults and often co-occurs with other mental health conditions like OCD and PTSD.

Do Hoarders Know They Have a Problem?

Yes, hoarders often know they have a problem. They experience distress when trying to discard items and may recognize the unsafe living conditions caused by hoarding. However, they may struggle to seek help due to shame or embarrassment.

Do Hoarders Ever Change?

Yes, hoarders can change. With proper treatment and support, individuals with hoarding disorder can learn to manage their symptoms, improve their living conditions, and develop healthier habits regarding acquiring and discarding possessions.

What Causes a Hoarder?

The causes of hoarding disorder can include genetics, brain abnormalities, stressful life events, learned behavior, and cognitive factors. These factors contribute to the excessive saving of items and the difficulty in discarding them.


In conclusion, hoarding disorder is a complex mental illness that affects a significant portion of the adult population. The excessive saving of items of little or no value can lead to unsafe living conditions and physical dangers.

It’s important to recognize the symptoms, causes, and treatment options for hoarding disorder in order to provide support and guidance for those struggling with it.

By understanding the connection between hoarding and other mental health conditions, we can work towards a better understanding and acceptance of this often misunderstood disorder.