What is hoarding disorder?

This is a medical condition caused by hoarding. It is common in adults and can occur in teenagers. This condition can be caused by many reasons. People who hoard items generally believe in the value of the item(s) being collected over time. This is not usually true and as these items collect space, they can be harmful and unhealthy to their collectors. People who hoard are known as hoarders and their condition can lead to them forgoing essential items in their homes just to create space for whatever they are collecting.

5 Stages of Hoarding Disorder

First Stage

This is the least noticeable stage with little of a disorder. A person, at this stage, only has a few disorganized areas in their space with little to no clusters. Some parts of their space might be overflowing with items that do not serve any purpose around them but overall, there is no odor or disorganized spaces.

Second Stage

Deteriorating hygiene is noticeable at this stage. Someone at this stage might not be capable of cleaning or organizing their own space. There is an increase in the number of clutters and movement in some areas of their space becomes restrictive. At this stage, they also find it difficult to clean their space because of the fear of throwing out any of their collected items.

Third Stage

This is the point at which the person is between being just a disorganized and messy person or a hoarder. There are obvious signs of a disorganized space and the person might have already begun to exhibit some negative behavioral changes like withdrawal from people. Areas in their spaces now hold objects that do not belong in them as they start using every possible room and vacant space to store their hoarded possessions. It is safe to get medical professionals involved at this point.

Fourth Stage

Anyone who fits in this fourth stage can be said to have hoarding disorder. Their living area can be seen to have damages left unattended. There is little to no space for movement amidst clutters. Expired food can be found lying around with a very foul odor polluting their space.

Fifth Stage

At this stage, the space of the hoarder has now become dangerous to them and those around them. Entering a stage five hoarder’s space might require you to wear protective gear to avoid catching an infection or getting injured. The hoarder, at this stage, should be admitted for medical treatment immediately.

What causes hoarding?

Hoarding can be developed from:

  1. Environmental factors like living alone and growing up deprived. People who grew up deprived of certain things can begin to hoard those things once they get access to them as adults. Examples are stuffed toys and toilet paper.
  2. Mental health conditions: Hoarding disorder can also be developed through other mental health disorders like depression, anxiety, schizophrenia and dementia, and so on.
  3. Indecisiveness: Most people with this disorder have been proven to have a personality that struggles with making decisions when given multiple choices so they end up hoarding all, including those they’ll never need.
  4. Family: Growing up in an unorganized setting or with a family member who has the disorder.
  5. The goal is to prevent waste. Some people came from homes where they did not have a lot of resources, so the idea of throwing things away could be unsettling to them.
  6. They have attached emotional importance to certain items and acquiring or keeping those items around might hold some good memories for them.
  7. They believe those items are uncommon and might end up being very valuable in the future, which isn’t always the case.
  8. These items give them a sense of security. For example, some people hoard stuffed toys or toys that represent heroic figures from their childhood just to feel safe in their own space. This might be a result of some childhood trauma or anxiety itself.

Symptoms of hoarding disorder

The symptoms of hoarding disorder vary from one person to the other. However, there are generic hoarding signs that are common in most cases.

  1.  Inability to get rid of invaluable possessions
  2. Having unnecessary and excess clutters in their spaces
  3. Losing important items due to excessive clutters
  4. Inability to sort out excessive clutters and dispose of unnecessary items
  5. Constant excuses for keeping clutter
  6. They are comfortable with staying in a disorganized space just to keep clusters.
  7. They are constantly in arguments over clusters with their loved ones.
  8. Personality disorders such as sudden withdrawal from people and social activities or being paranoid.

Effects of hoarding:

  • Disorganized spaces

Due to the accumulation of various unused and out-of-place items, the spaces of people with hoarding disorders always have very unclean spaces regardless of how large their spaces are.

  • Difficulty in cleaning and decluttering

The inability to get rid of unused items makes it difficult to sort out or clean up their spaces because they always end up with the same amount of clutter no matter how much they rearrange.

  • Exposure to danger in your space

Having so many things around in a disorganized setting leaves hoarders at the risk of tripping and injuring themselves or worse.

  • Difficulty functioning within one’s space due to lack of space to move around with ease around your space.
  • Risk of homelessness due to eviction from properties. Due to the unhygienic result of hoarding, hoarders are at risk of getting evicted from housing properties.

Collectors Vs Hoarders

These two categories are sometimes confused with each other. Collectors and hoarders do not do the same things. A collector is someone who scouts for a particular item or a group of items that are of great value or importance to them or a group of people. In contrast, a hoarder just collects random objects that oftentimes do not have any importance to them or anyone around them. Also, collectors are capable of creating an organized way of keeping their collected items whereas hoarders are known to be very disorganized and incapable of sorting theirs.


Hoarding disorder is diagnosable and can be treated. The only problem is people with this disorder do not usually think they have a problem and it is up to those around them to encourage them to seek medical attention. The major hoarding disorder treatment is psychotherapy. A doctor can diagnose this disorder through a series of interviews with the patient and also, then loved ones. The result of these interviews will determine which of the types of psychotherapy treatment options is more suitable for the patient.

Psychotherapy, commonly referred to as talking or psychological treatment, uses routine interaction to aid in the recovery of those suffering from mental diseases. Personal connection with those who have this disease is intended to aid in their recovery by assisting them in reflecting on the causes of their habit of collecting things. There are many different approaches for administering psychotherapy. This is why it’s crucial to consult with a doctor who can provide an accurate diagnosis and determine the most effective form of psychotherapy.

Psychotherapy can be done in groups or individually. These are the common psychotherapy treatment options for people with hoarding disorder are:

  1. Peer-led group: This technique involves a group of friendly individuals coming together to give one another support and to also create a sense of progress accountability. The goal of these groups is to keep one another in check through regular meetings and check-ins.
  2. Therapy: cognitive behavioral therapy is currently the most successful treatment option. It can be done in groups or individually and it is administered by a medical practitioner. It is a therapy that pays attention to the actual reason behind a person’s hoarding habit and helps them alter that through the process to curb the behavior. Some sessions of this therapy might include discussions on decluttering and ways to prevent creation.
  3. Family support: Coming to terms with having a hoarder in the family can be stressful but a very good way to help them recover faster is to be there for them and help them through their recovery process.


Studies have shown that age is a significant factor when it comes to who can get hoarding disorder. However, it is not uncommon to find it in any group. The symptoms might just be milder in certain age categories. Regardless of the intensity of these symptoms, it is advisable to get help as soon as possible.