What is Hoarding Disorder? Symptoms and Causes

Hoarding Disorder

Hoarding disorder causes people to have trouble throwing away items, regardless of their value. It can be treated in a variety of ways.

The hoarding disorder is characterized by a persistent inability to discard or part with possessions due to a perception of needing to keep them. Hoarders feel distressed when they think about getting rid of their items. They accumulate a lot of things regardless of their actual value.

The state of hoarding often leads to crowded, cramped living conditions, with narrow passages and a lot of clutter. It is almost impossible to keep anything from piling up on countertops, sinks, stoves, desks, stairways, and just about anywhere else. Additionally, you may find that clutter is spreading to the garage, vehicles, yard, and other storage areas when there is no more space inside.

The severity of hoarding varies. While hoarding can negatively impact your life in some instances, in others, it can seriously impair your functioning.

Hoarders may not recognize hoarding disorder as a problem, making treatment difficult. Hoarding disorder patients can benefit from intensive treatment since it enables them to change their beliefs and behaviors and live a more satisfying, fulfilling life.

The consequences of hoarding disorders can be emotionally, socially, economically and legally devastating.

Information about hoarding disorder is presented in this article, including its symptoms, causes, and possible treatments.

Read: Cognitive Disorder

Is hoarding an anxiety disorder?

There is a difference between hoarding disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), which are both anxiety disorders.

As a subtype of OCD, hoarding was previously classified as a mental disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).

Health care providers encountered patients with hoarding behaviors without any other mental health issues. In the most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V), which is the fifth edition, hoarding disorder was categorized as an isolated condition outside of the OCD spectrum.

Difference between hoarding and collecting

There is a difference between hoarding and collecting items.

Most collectors save comic books, currency, or stamps, as well as other types of items. These items would be carefully chosen and arranged in a specific way. Your daily life will not be negatively affected by accumulating items in this way.

The items in a hoard are not organized so they can be easily accessed or used. Paper pieces or broken toys are common items that people with hoarding disorder hoard. They also suffer from the negative effects of hoarding on a daily basis.

Hoarding disorder symptoms

It may be difficult for people with hoarding disorder to throw away things that others consider worthless or insignificant.

Hoarding disorder is different from collecting – people tend to acquire different items instead of collecting a particular item. The piles may contain old magazines, clothes, food wrappers and childhood items.

The space they have for storing these things may run out over time, so they may be forced to organize their belongings in a chaotic manner.

Even non-human creatures, such as farm animals and companions, can be acquired by some with hoarding disease. A lack of veterinary care, overcrowding, and unsanitary conditions may put human and animal welfare at risk.

Other symptoms of hoarding disorder include:

  • Stress caused by a lack of possessions or an uncomfortable living situation could contribute to emotional distress
  • Fear that others might touch their items could contribute to emotional distress
  • Checking trashcans for discarded items or fearing that one might need an item in the future are all examples of obsessive behaviors
  • Thinking that inanimate objects have feelings, and sometimes feeling responsible for them

The following issues are often associated with people who suffer from hoarding disorder:

  • Indecisiveness
  • Disorganization
  • Distractibility
  • Procrastination

In most cases, hoarding disorder symptoms begin at a young age, with the average age of onset of symptoms being 13 years old.

Read: Ganser Syndrome

Causes and risk factors

Hoarding disorder is still not fully understood by researchers.

Hoarding disorder is characterized by individuals’ urge to accumulate and retain items that:

  • They believe that the information may be useful or valuable in the future.
  • Usually, they are free or less expensive than usual.
  • They are perceived to be sentimental.
  • There are items that are irreplaceable, unique or perfect (often only for them).
  • They remind us of an important event, person, place or time we fear we may forget.

It may also be comforting to surround oneself with these items.

Several risk factors may trigger or worsen hoarding disease, but researchers are not certain why people get it. They include:

The following conditions can also cause hoarding disorder:

The following conditions are associated with hoarding disorder less commonly:

Read: Tardive Dyskinesia


It can affect an individual in many ways, including physically and emotionally. It can also affect their finances, social status and even their legal status.

Clutter may overtake a person’s home, making it difficult to access essential areas such as living, cooking and working.

Hoarding disorder can also lead to the following complications or consequences:

  • Having difficulty performing daily tasks
  • Poor hygiene
  • Poor diet or nutrition
  • The environment you live in could be hazardous, such as a tripping hazard, fire hazard, or a large pile of items that might collapse
  • Broken or strained relationships with family, friends or coworkers
  • Loneliness and social isolation
  • Loss of employment
  • Debt
  • Reluctance to open their homes to others
  • Financial difficulties
  • Difficulties with family law and animal welfare
  • Eviction or loss of property value

The following mental health conditions may also be experienced by people with hoarding disorder:

Read: Truman Syndrome

Hoarding disorder diagnosis

It can be tough to diagnose hoarding disorder because many people with the condition are unwilling to admit it or do not want to seek treatment, often out of fear of losing their possessions.

Hoarding disorders are usually diagnosed by asking questions about the person, their possessions, and their homes. Here are some common questions:

  • When someone else discards things easily (sell, give away, recycle), is it difficult or stressful for you to do the same?
  • Is clutter making it difficult for you to use the room or surface at home?
  • Do you have difficulty organizing things or deciding where they belong?
  • How does clutter affect your everyday life?
  • Does it affect your studies, relationships or work?
  • Do you worry about other people using, destroying or touching your belongings?

Symptoms of the person’s symptoms may also be assessed by taking pictures of the person’s major living spaces or by visiting them in person.

Hoarding disorder can be diagnosed if someone displays:

  • It is difficult to get rid of possessions for long periods of time, no matter their value.
  • Losing possessions causes significant distress.
  • Blocking, filling, or cluttering primary living spaces prevents them from functioning properly.

Psychiatrists should also be sure that hoarding disorder isn’t a symptom of another condition before making a diagnosis.

Read: Retrograde Amnesia

Hoarding disorder treatments

Most individuals with hoarding disorder are able to reduce their major symptoms and complications with the right treatment.

The most commonly used type of treatment for hoarding disorder is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).

People suffering from hoarding illness will gradually learn how to let go of unnecessary items during CBT sessions.

Behavioral therapy can also improve a person’s ability to relax, organize and make decisions. This can help in controlling hoarding behavior in the future.

The use of medication may also be part of the treatment process in some cases. It is particularly relevant when hoarding disorder is linked to severe anxiety or depression that responds well to medication.

Related: How to Help Someone with Hoarding Disorder

Hoarding animals

It is not uncommon for hoarders to accumulate dozens or even hundreds of animals. Some animals may be confined to their homes while others may be kept outside. These animals are often not properly cared for due to their large numbers. Due to the unsanitary conditions, both people and animals are at risk for their health and safety.

How common is it?

Hoarding disorder affects around 2–6% of the United States’ population, according to the American Psychiatric Association.

Researchers have found that males are more likely than females to suffer from hoarding illness.

Read: Diogenes Syndrome

When to see a doctor

If you have symptoms of hoarding disorder, you should speak with your doctor, especially if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • If they are severe, chronic, or if they come along with other symptoms
  • Besides interfering with everyday activities like cleaning, cooking, bathing or working, it can negatively affect your health
  • Can negatively impact your relationships
  • May cause extreme anxiety
  • May have created unsafe or unhealthy living conditions


Hoarding disorders often have a poor prognosis (outlook). Cognitive behavioral therapy can improve the symptoms of some people with the disorder, but many people still experience side effects after treatment.

When a person suffers from hoarding disorder, their living space is often unusable, which restricts their ability to complete essential daily tasks, including cooking, cleaning, sleeping, and bathing. It is also possible that they live in an unsafe or unhealthy environment. There is a high risk of fires, tripping hazards, and health code violations associated with hoarding.

Additionally, hoarding disorder can negatively affect relationships, social activities, and work performance. Families often experience strain, conflict, and isolation because of it.

Children with hoarding problems may have difficulties in developing their social skills. Separation or divorce may occur as a result of unlivable conditions, as well as evictions and even the loss of custody of children. State animal cruelty laws may also apply to hoarders of animals living in unsafe conditions.