Hoarding Disorder

Compulsive Hoarding

Hoarding is characterized by the acquisition of too many items and by difficulty discarding them. This compulsive acquisition results in major impairment to the sufferer due to the massive amount of clutter that physically builds up around the home, and may include other venues, such as the office or car.

Hoarding Can Take Over

Hoarding can be very embarrassing and distressing. It frequently develops into a vicious cycle where individuals almost literally become trapped in their own homes. Excess clutter can result in difficulty moving around within the home and decreased home utility. Sometimes hoarders will fill storage units once their homes and garages become filled. Hoarding can even take over a person's ability to function normally with computer and other media equipment (e.g. ten drives of storage on a home computer).

Compulsive hoarding is not the same as hobbies and saving objects of monetary or sentimental value. Hoarders may carefully read junk mail, collect piles of old newspapers, sort through garbage to "rescue" useful things, and collect useless objects or free items.

Common things that may be hoarded:

  • stacks of newspaper
  • old magazines
  • used food containers
  • expired food
  • mail
  • animals
  • phone and email messages
  • text messages, web pages, computer files, pictures

Hoarder Issues

Since hoarders can't decide what to keep or how to organize it, they end up keeping everything. They may plan to clean up, but the impossible desire to clean and organize everything perfectly only results in procrastination. Thus the hoarder will make excuses to avoid dealing with the overwhelming mess.

Hoarders may also experience anxiety and depression, poor insight, and social problems (e.g., social isolation). A distinctive feature of hoarders is excessive emotional attachment to possessions, difficulties in categorizing and organizing, and concerns about not being about to remember important things. Worries experienced by hoarders include fears of losing items which may be needed later. Most hoarders have exaggerated beliefs about the importance of items, and are thus excessively attached to their possessions.

Hoarding is Not Collecting

Hoarders are not to be confused with collectors. Hoarders are not people who simply like to collect things, such as baseball cards or stamps. Some items may be valuable but most of the hoarded items are not particularly valuable. Hoarding is not simply saving sentimental objects, although the hoarder may attach excessive sentiments to items.

A Different Kind of OCD

There are some important differences between hoarding and OCD, which have lead researchers to conclude that hoarding is actually a separate disorder. Unlike individuals with other OCD symptoms, hoarders tend to have fewer intrusive thoughts about possessions and fewer urges to perform rituals. Distress may only becomes prominent when faced with the prospect of losing their possessions. Due to these differences, hoarding has been reclassified as a separate OC spectrum disorder in the DSM-5.

Hoarding Disorder in the DSM-5

  • Hoarders have trouble letting go of and throwing out items even if they are worthless items.
  • Hoarders cannot part with possessions because they have a strong need to save things. They experience a lot of distress at the thought of throwing something out or the thought of someone else throwing their belongings away or even touching items that belong to them.
  • Hoarding results in an accumulation of a large number of possessions that clutter up living areas in the home or work place. The enormous amount of clutter makes it hard or even impossible for living and work areas to be used in the way they were originally intended.
  • The extreme clutter causes social issues for the hoarder. They may lose friends and family relationship, or become isolated because of the clutter. The extreme clutter makes their environment dangerous for themselves and others.
  • If the hoarding behaviors are caused by another general medical condition, hoarding disorder will not apply to the situation. For example, if someone suffers a brain injury that impairs their judgment, then the person should not be classified as a hoarder.
  • If the hoarding behaviors are considered to be symptoms of another mental disorder, then the person should not be classified as someone with hoarding disorder.


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Behavioral Wellness Clinic &
Delaware Valley OCD Clinic
225 Wilmington W Chester Pk
Chadds Ford, PA 19317
Phone: (484) 324-2749

6-D Ledgebrook Drive
Mansfield Center, CT 06250
Phone: (860) 830-7838

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Clinical Director: Monnica Williams, PhD
Office Manager: Jasmine Terwilliger
Business Manager: Matthew Jahn