Chronic hoarding is defined as the persistent difficulty or inability to discard or part with possessions of different types. In many cases, items which are hoarded can have no value and may even be no more than what otherwise might be classified as garbage.

How Many People Hoard?

The reality is that no precise measurement exists of the number of people who suffer from clinical hoarding. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Mayo Clinic have estimated that somewhere between six and 15 millions people in the United States are hoarders.

Why Is Hard to Peg the Number of People Who Hoard?

Two principle reasons exist as to why identifying the number of hoarders in the United States, or anywhere in the world, is next to impossible. First, many people who hoard do not recognize that they have a problem. Because they do not think they have an issue, they do not seek any type of assistance. As a result, their hoarding behavior remains hidden.

Second, those individuals with some recognition that hoarding is not the norm or that represent some sort of problem keeps their activities hidden from others. Therefore, this presents another reason why calculating a more accurate number of hoarders in the country, let alone around the world, is impossible.

What Are Some Possible Signs of Hoarding?

There are a number of signs associated with hoarding. Although these signs are not absolute proof that hoarding is occurring, they do provide some evidence of it. In addition, if multiple signs exist, the probability that hoarding is occurring is quite high in many instances. Primary signs of hoarding are:

  • difficulty in getting rid of items
  • significant clutter in a person’s home, car, office
  • clutter makes space unusable for their intended purposes
  • losing important items, including money
  • feeling overwhelmed
  • unable to not accept some sort of free item
  • stocking up on items thought to be a good deal
  • not inviting friends or family into the home
  • refusing to let people into a residence to make needed repairs

Is Hoarding Classified as a Mental Health Condition?

Until recently, hoarding was classified as a type of obsessive-compulsive disorder or OCD. Hoarding disorder is classified separately from OCD. With that noted, about 20 percent of individuals diagnosed with OCD also hoard.

What Motivates a Person to Hoard?

A variety of reasons exist for hoarding. In many instances, a hoarder develops a sentimental attachment to items, even if they lack any real value. A hoarder may be a compulsive shopper, purchasing items at what is seen at a bargain. In end, this type of hoarder cannot part with items because of the belief that they were purchased through good deals. One consistent attribute associated with people who hoard is that they experience what can amount to tremendous anxiety even with the thought of having to dispose of possessions.

Do Hoarders Discuss What They Do?

In the vast majority of cases, a hoarder is highly secretive. A hoarder is not apt to let anyone know of what is going on in regard to the accumulation of possessions and related matters. Hoarders frequently live in isolation in their homes. Ultimately, as a hoard grows, and a residence ends up in more noticeable disrepair, outsides may begin to notice that something is amiss at a hoarder’s residence.

Do Hoarders Believe They Have a Problem?

In many cases involving hoarding, a hoarder does not recognize a problem. Such an individual is likely to believe that hoarding really is the standard operating procedure. In addition, there are hoarders that actually think that what they do is beneficial. This cohort believes they are doing some sort of service by holding onto possessions.

Are hoarders sloppy by nature?

A conclusion that many people reach is that hoarders are sloppy by nature. There certainly are some hoarders who are sloppy. Moreover, as a hoard grows in size, and takes over more of a residence, disorganization occurs. Nonetheless, hoarders oftentimes are perfectionists, despite the disorder in their homes. Because they are perfectionists, many hoarders fear to make an incorrect decision when it comes to eliminating possessions. In addition, about one in five hoarders are also diagnosed with OCD.

How Do Hoarders Interact With Others?

During the early stages of hoarding, no recognizable change in existing relationships may occur. However, as hoarding continues, a person afflicted with this condition is likely to become less social and more reclusive. If hoarding is discovered, a hoarder is likely to experience significant issues with family members and friends. This arises from the likelihood that these individuals will desire to intervene and assist a hoarder in gaining control over the situation. A hoarder is likely to resent these efforts, even when made by loved ones.

What Is the Difference Between Hoarding and Collecting?

There are significant differences between hoarding and collecting. Collecting involves the accumulation of specific types of items. These items, in turn, are displayed or maintained with pride. Hoarding involves what might best be described as the haphazard accumulation of items, including things without any value. A hoarder is not interested in displaying or otherwise showing off the fruits of his or her labor.

When Does Hoarding Typically Begin in a Person’s Life?

In some cases, hoarding can start during a person’s childhood or teenage years. With that noted, hoarding typically does not occur in earnest until a person becomes an adult, and usually later in his or her adult years. The average age of a person who seeks assistance for hoarding is about 50.

Can Medications Assist With Hoarding?

Typically, medications alone will not resolve a hoarding issue. Medications have been proven to assist in reducing the anxiety level associated with eliminating possessions from a hoard. However, while this may assist in eliminating some items from a hoard, this type of medication usually does not stop the accumulation of possessions as part of the hoarding process.

Can Hoarding Cause Health Problems?

In addition to being a clinically recognized mental disorder, hoarding can have other health consequences. First, as clutter mounts, a residence becomes less clean and less livable. In such an environment, problems can occur that jeopardize a hoarder’s health. For example, rodents oftentimes are attracted to and live in hoards. Rodent droppings can have a seriously negative impact on a person’s health.

How Does Hoarding Affect a Residence?

As hoarding progresses and becomes more serious, a residence typically falls into disrepair. In addition, spaces within a residence no longer can be used for their intended purposes. Moreover, appliances and even beds become inaccessible due to the growth of a hoard. [

Is Hoarding the Result of a Prior Financial Hardship?

Many hoarders due describe themselves as being thrifty. They may believe that they hoard because of the financial hardship they perceived existed at some point in their lives. What research that has been unable to be undertaken on the phenomenon of hoarding does not support this hypothesis. There appears to be no real correlational to an actual past financial hardship and hoarding. Nonetheless, a stressor like a developing financial issue, and other challenging issues, can compel a person to hoard. In addition, there does appear to be a correlation between traumatic events or a serious personal loss in a person’s life bringing on hoarding behavior.

Can Hoarding Be Treated?

Hoarding is a treatable condition. Although treatable, chronic hoarding necessitates the assistance of professionals. These professionals include everyone from a mental health specialist to a professional in residential cleanup and organization.

How Is Hoarding Treated?

Hoarding is treated through a number of approaches, brought together in a comprehensive recovery plan. At the outset, a hoarder’s belief system must be challenged appropriately, including his or her beliefs about keeping items and aggregating new ones.

What are the specific steps to treating hoarding?

The process of treating hoarding includes practicing the removal of clutter with the assistance of a therapist or other professional. In other words, a member or members of the recovery team work closely with a hoarder to remove even a few items as a means of starting the process of regaining control over life. After a hoarder begins the removal process with the direct assistance of a professional, he or she ultimately moves forward to undertaking the elimination of items on his or her own.

Is There Anything Else Involved in Treating Hoarding?

Yes. In fact, making the decision to eliminate items from a hoard, and then doing so, is only part of the process. The next step involves developing meaningful, effective strategies to avoid hoarding in the future. This more often than not is achieved through ongoing, even long-term, cognitive therapy. There are therapists in practice today who focus their work on assisting people in addressing existing hoarding issues and avoiding them in the future.

Is There Such a Thing as a Hoarding Intervention?

Yes. Merely confronting a person about hoarding likely will not have any effect. When confronted about hoarding, a hoarder is likely to become highly defensive and withdraw altogether from the individual addressing the hoarder. As mentioned previously, there are therapists that specialize in hoarding issues. These individuals typically have the skill set necessary to arrange for an appropriate hoarding intervention.

What Can Family and Friends Do to Assist a Hoarder?

Step one in assisting a hoarder really should be seeking out professional advice and assistance. In addition, the primary tactic is to acknowledge that the person truly does have the right to make decisions regarding possessions at his or her own pace.

In addition to respect for the person laboring under a hoarding issue, a loved one must have sympathy. They need to understand that these possessions are important to the person involved in hoarding them.

Loved ones also must be encouraging. Although a cliché, Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither was a hoard of possessions.

Finally, family and friends need to understand that trust must be developed over time. As trust is built all around, progress can be made in regard to taking on a hoarding situation.



Emily Kil

Co-Owner of Eco Bear Biohazard Cleaning Company

Together with her husband, Emily Kil is co-owner of Eco Bear, a leading biohazard remediation company in Southern California. An experienced entrepreneur, Emily assisted in founding Eco Bear as a means of combining her business experience with her desire to provide assistance to people facing challenging circumstances. Emily regularly writes about her first-hand experiences providing services like biohazard cleanup, suicide cleanup, crime scene cleanup, unattended death cleanup, and other types of difficult remediations in homes and businesses.