A hoarding disorder is an ongoing difficulty in disposing of or parting with property because it is deemed necessary to save it. A person with a hoarding disorder suffers from the thought of throwing things away. There is an excessive accumulation of items regardless of their real value.
- Hoarding often creates such cramped living conditions that the houses are full and only narrow paths are stacked through clutter. Countertops, sinks, stoves, desks, stairs, and just about any other surface are usually filled with things. And when there is no more space inside, the chaos can spread to the garage, vehicles, yard, and other storage facilities.
- Hoarding ranges from easy to difficult. In some cases, hoarding may not have much of an impact on your life, while in other cases it may seriously affect your daily functioning.
- People with hoarding disorders may not see this as a problem, making treatment difficult. Intensive treatment can help people with hoarding disorder understand how to change their beliefs and behaviors so that they can lead safer, more comfortable lives.
Preserving and storing an excessive number of items, the gradual build-up of clutter in living spaces, and the difficulty of getting rid of items are usually the first signs and symptoms of a hoarding disorder, which often appears from adolescence to early adulthood.
Usually, as people get older, they begin to acquire things for which there is no immediate need or space. In middle age, symptoms are often severe and can be more difficult to manage.
- Problems with hoarding develop gradually over time and are usually private behaviors. Often times, significant disorder has developed by reaching the attention of others.
Signs and symptoms can include:
- Acquire excessively items that are unnecessary or for which there is no space
- Persistent difficulty throwing away or parting with your things, regardless of their real value
- Feel the need to save these items and let the idea of throwing them away overwhelm you
- Build up of clutter to the point where parts become unusable
- Tend to indecision, perfectionism, avoidance, procrastination, and problems with planning and organization
- It is not known what causes the hoarding disorder. Genetics, brain function and stressful life events are examined as possible causes.
Hoarding usually starts between the ages of 11 and 15 and worsens with age. Hoarding is more common in the elderly than in young adults.
Risk factors are:
- Personality. Many people with hoarding disorders have indecisive temperaments.
- Family history. There is a strong link between a family member who has a hoarding disorder and the disorder itself.
- Stressful life events. Some people develop hoarding disorder after experiencing a stressful event they struggled with, such as the death of a loved one, divorce, eviction, or loss of property in a fire.
- Since the causes of hoarding disorders are poorly understood, there is no known way to prevent them. However, as with many mental health problems, treatment at the first sign of a problem can help keep hoarding from worsening.