Hoarding Disorder Symptoms: Understanding the Signs and Symptoms

Hoarding disorder is a mental health condition that affects many people worldwide. The disorder manifests itself in persistent difficulty to discard or part with possessions, regardless of their actual value. The hoarding behavior often leads to severe cluttering and living spaces becoming overwhelmed, making it difficult for individuals to even use their homes. In severe cases, which are somewhat rare, hoarding disorder can lead to significant health and safety risks.

What Is Hoarding Disorder?

Hoarding disorder is a type of mental health issue that is characterized by the overwhelming fear that an individual experiences when it comes to discarding or throwing things away. A hoarder will struggle to part with possessions, leading to the accumulation of clutter and useless items that can often lead to house fires, health hazards or even infestation. Many times, this hoarding behavior is fueled by other mental disorders, including Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), anxiety, or depression. However, some people with no other underlying conditions may still have hoarding disorder, which affects their quality of life and relationships.

What Are the Symptoms of Hoarding Disorder?

The symptoms of hoarding disorder are not easy to spot, and often take time to develop. A hoarder may not initially be aware that they have hoarding disorder, while others might have an idea, though might be reluctant to seek professional help. Below are some of the core symptoms of hoarding disorder:

1. Acquiring or Collecting Too many Items

One of the cardinal characteristics of hoarding disorder is the excessive accumulation of items that appear to have no value or function. The acquisition or collection of these items usually takes up much of the person’s time and resources, and they have an extremely difficult time deciding to get rid of them. This often leads to significant clutter, piles of objects that constantly grow and never decrease in number.

2. Not Being Able to Toss Out or Part with Possessions

Hoarding disorder patients find it hard to get rid of even the most insignificant items. Grave emotional attachment is often the cause of this behavior. Hoarding disorder patients may become distressed at the suggestion of getting rid of an item, leading to arguments and uncomfortable situations when it comes time to clean or tidy up.

3. Live in Cluttered and Unsanitary Conditions

Living spaces often become cluttered and unlivable in. Piles of items collected over time make it tough to move or even use the living space. This often leads to unsafe living conditions, including fire risk or hygiene issues such as infestation of rodents or pests.

4. Emotional Distress When Discarding Items

Although the hoarding behavior is irrational and should not affect quality of life, hoarders often experience intense emotional turmoil when haggling with the idea of discarding items. In extreme cases, the thought of getting rid of an object can lead to anxiety or panic attacks.

5. Fear Losing Important Information or Data

Some hoarders collect more data than physical items. Many times, they hoard documents, photographs, magazines, or other publications instead of physical objects; this is especially true in less extreme cases. They often refuse to throw away old newspapers or documents, even if the information contained within is outdated or irrelevant. This behavior may also cause them to hoard electronic files, including emails, social media messages, and other digital information.

The Health Risks of Hoarding Disorder

Hoarding disorder has various health risks associated with it, both physically and mentally. Below are some of the notable health risks:

1. Increased Risk of Fire

The accumulation of clutter often leaves no space in hallways or other escape routes, increasing the risk of fire. Blocked fire exits or congested spaces may hinder emergency services from carrying out a safe rescue mission.

2. Infestation with Pests or Rodents

Hoarding disorder often leads to the accumulation of food substances, even if they are expired or inedible, creating health and hygiene problems. The clutters attract pests and rodents, causing further health hazards.

3. Dangerous Living Conditions

In severe cases, hoarding can render a living space unlivable, with clutter and piles of objects covering every corner to the point that even the simplest of tasks become a struggle. This can lead to significant risks and accidents.

4. Emotional Distress

Hoarders often become distressed when it comes to the idea of decluttering the home. This can lead to anxiety, depression, social isolation and a decrease in their quality of life. Arguments may arise, and hoarders may often feel misunderstood, causing further emotional turmoil.

How to Treat Hoarding Disorder

The treatment of hoarding disorder is often gradual, and sometimes the patient’s desire to improve must come first. A collaborative effort between mental health professionals, family, and friends is often necessary to aid the patient’s recovery. Below are some of the most common treatment types:

1. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT is a type of psychotherapy that is very effective in bringing about behavioral changes. This treatment involves the identification of problematic thought patterns and negative self-talk, resulting in improved skills when it comes to decision making and problem-solving strategies.

2. Medication

Medications such as Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) can aid in the treatment of depression and anxiety, which often goes hand in hand with hoarding behaviour. However, medication alone is rarely effective at treating hoarding, and should only be used in conjunction with other forms of therapy.

3. Support Groups

This type of treatment is focused on providing emotional support to patients. Participating in support groups offers the patient an opportunity to connect with others dealing with similar experiences, allowing them to share difficulties and challenges both in dealing with hoarding behavior and in everyday life.

4. Professional Organizers

A professional organizer can help a patient declutter and organize their possessions, curbing the hoarding behavior. This type of treatment is especially valuable as it offers a practical, hands-on approach, which aids in the gradual recovery of the patient.


Hoarding disorder is a mental health problem that has a significant impact on relationships, the living environment, and the hoarder’s mental health. Spreading awareness of the disorder and openly discussing the symptoms and treatment options is crucial in supporting individuals who are struggling with hoarding. If you or anyone you know is struggling with hoarding symptoms, please contact a mental health professional to learn more about available treatment options.


FAQs About Hoarding Disorder Symptoms

1. What are the common symptoms of hoarding disorder?

Hoarding disorder can be categorized by the excessive accumulation of objects that may or may not have value. Common symptoms include intense anxiety over discarding objects, trouble making decisions about possessions, and difficulty organizing items. The individual may become emotionally attached to items and struggle with letting them go. It can also lead to significant clutter that impacts the individual’s daily life.

2. Is hoarding disorder a mental health issue?

Yes, hoarding disorder is considered a mental health issue. It is classified as a disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). Individuals with hoarding disorder often experience significant distress and negative consequences related to their hoarding behaviors, such as social isolation, health problems, and difficulty functioning in daily life.

3. How is hoarding disorder treated?

Treatment for hoarding disorder typically involves therapy and medication. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is the most common type of therapy used to treat hoarding disorder. It involves teaching the individual skills to manage anxiety, decision-making, and organization. Medication such as antidepressants may also be used to help with the symptoms of anxiety and depression. In severe cases, professional cleaning services may be necessary to remove clutter and restore the living space to a safe and functional environment.


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