What is hoarding disorder?
Hoarding disorder is a mental health disorder in which people save a large number of items whether they have worth or not. Typical hoarded items include newspapers, magazines, paper products, household goods, and clothing. Sometimes people with hoarding disorder collect a large number of animals.
Hoarding disorder can lead to dangerous clutter. The condition can interfere with quality of life in many ways. It can cause people stress and shame in their social, family, and work lives. It can also create unhealthy and unsafe living conditions.
How common is hoarding disorder?
Hoarding disorder affects an estimated 2% to 6% of the U.S. population.
Symptoms and Causes
What are the symptoms of hoarding disorder?
People with hoarding disorder feel a strong need to save their possessions. Other symptoms include:
- Inability to get rid of possessions
- Extreme stress about throwing out items
- Anxiety about needing items in the future
- Uncertainty about where to put things
- Distrust of others touching possessions
- Living in unusable spaces due to clutter
- Withdrawing from friends and family
What causes hoarding disorder?
The cause of hoarding disorder is unknown. Doctors have identified several risk factors associated with the condition. They include:
- Having a relative with the disorder
- Brain injury that triggers the need to save things
- Traumatic life event
- Mental disorders such as depression or obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Uncontrollable buying habits
- Inability to pass up free items such as coupons and flyers
Diagnosis and Tests
When should a doctor get involved?
People with hoarding disorder rarely seek help on their own. Concerned friends or family members often reach out to a professional to help a loved one with the condition.
Contact a doctor or mental health professional if hoarding makes a living situation unhealthy or unsafe for you or someone you know. A therapist can evaluate the situation and recommend treatments to help manage symptoms for a healthier life and home.
How do doctors diagnose hoarding disorder?
To diagnose hoarding disorder, a doctor will ask about your collecting and saving habits. To confirm a diagnosis, the following symptoms must be present:
- Ongoing difficulty getting rid of possessions whether they have value or not
- Feelings of distress associated with discarding items
- Living spaces so filled with possessions they are unusable
Management and Treatment
What are the common treatments for hoarding disorder?
Doctors use 2 types of treatment for people with hoarding disorder. These treatments can help people with the disorder live healthier and happier lives.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a common treatment for hoarding disorder. With CBT, people learn to understand why they hoard and how to feel less anxiety when throwing away items. Specialists also teach organization and decision-making skills. These skills can help you better manage your possessions.
Some doctors use medications called antidepressants to treat hoarding disorder. These medicines, including venlafaxine (Effexor®) and paroxetine (Paxil®), can improve the symptoms. Often, the combination of medications and cognitive-behavioral therapy are utilized in order to reduce symptoms more effectively.
Can hoarding disorder be prevented?
Because doctors do not know what causes hoarding disorder, there is no way to prevent it.
Outlook / Prognosis
What is the outlook for people with hoarding disorder?
Many people who receive treatment for hoarding disorder learn to manage their possessions. Learning new behaviors allows them to feel less anxiety. Treatment can decrease their need to save items. Reducing these symptoms leads to an improved quality of life.