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What is Hoarding Disorder?

Hoarding disorder is a condition in which an individual struggles with giving up items and belongings (even those that are of little to no value). The individual may become upset or anxious at the idea of getting rid of an item because they feel a need to hang onto them. This can lead to an extreme build-up of items that aren’t needed or serve no purpose.

Hoarding may be related to relevant compulsions including the urge to excessively shop for items, the urge to amass free items, and the urge to seek out one-of-a-kind items. Oftentimes, the individual with hoarding disorder may believe that the items they acquire are special or unique when they are, in reality, entirely commonplace.

Hoarding disorder can have a serious impact the lives of individuals with the condition and his or her family. This disorder can be detrimental to numerous aspects of the individual’s life, including his or her:

  • Social life
  • Emotional health
  • Physical health
  • Financial health

Signs of Hoarding

Hoarding can be recognized in a variety of signs and symptoms, including:

  • Extreme difficulty with discarding belongings
  • Extreme distress and anxiety when trying to get rid of items
  • Trouble deciding where to store items
  • Trouble organizing or decluttering items
  • Indecision, perfectionism, and procrastination towards organizing items
  • Embarrassment or distress over accumulated belongings
  • Mistrust of other people touching belongings
  • Obsessive thoughts and behaviors (i.e. distress over accidentally throwing something away or running out of something)
  • Purchasing or accumulating more items, even when there isn’t enough space for them

Signs of hoarding may also be seen in changes in the individual’s quality of life, including:

  • Cramped living quarters due to accumulated belongings
  • Neglected social connections and communication
  • Tension between family members and/or a partner
  • Financial complications
  • Health risks posed by the amassed items

Hoarding may cause or be accompanied by extreme stress, anxiety, and/or depression. These conditions may be exacerbated if hoarding disorder goes untreated.

How is Hoarding Disorder Treated?

The most difficult aspect of hoarding disorder is reaching the point where the suffering individual seeks treatment. People with hoarding disorder often don’t recognize their problem and may refuse to seek treatment.

Once the individual is open to treatment, the main option is therapy. Specifically, cognitive behavioral therapy is used to treat hoarding disorder and reduce its negative impact. Cognitive behavioral therapy for hoarding disorder may involve identifying the thoughts, ideas, and habits that lead to hoarding, then replacing them with new thoughts and ideas. Anxiety and compulsion management can help improve decision-making and organization skills. Cognitive behavioral therapy may also hone in on social isolation and work to encourage social relationships.

In the treatment of hoarding disorder, help with decluttering and organizing the home may be included. In these circumstances, a therapist or professional organizer may come to the home and provide help through the process of discarding items that are unneeded.

When hoarding disorder is accompanied by anxiety, depression, or other mental health conditions, medications may be prescribed in addition to therapy.

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