Looking for online mental health care? Find licensed psychiatrists or therapists and schedule a session today.

Hoarding: Myths and Misconceptions

Most people have heard of hoarding, but some might not know it is an actual mental health disorder. Some people love to watch “Hoarders” and to be entertained by how ridiculous these behaviors seem. They judge the people on the show, creating a strong stigma about hoarders. However, this is a serious condition. Hoarding is a mental disorder characterized by a persistent difficulty discarding possessions, regardless of their value. The behavior can have devastating effects—emotional, physical, social, financial, and even legal—for the sufferer and their family members. With a home overrun with clutter, they may be unable to invite people over or even move around.

The typical symptoms include an inability to throw away possessions without experiencing severe anxiety, difficulty categorizing or organizing, and indecision about what to keep or where to put things. New research shows this may be due to certain brain abnormalities. Many of their thoughts and actions are obsessive. Hoarders feel distress and are embarrassed by their possessions They might fear running out of something or may get suspicions that other people are touching these items. As a result, they suffer from loss of living space, social isolation, family or marital discord, financial difficulties, and even health hazards.



Hoarding comes in many different forms and can present itself as a symptom of other disorders. Some hoarders are compulsive buyers and some find novelty in various everyday items. Those disorders often associated with hoarding are Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD), Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and depression. Sometimes, it may even be associated with an eating disorder, Pica (eating non-food materials), Prader-Willi syndrome (a genetic disorder), psychosis, depression, trauma or dementia.

Hoarding is not the same as collecting. Collectors have a sense of pride about their possessions, displaying and talking about them. They stay organized, feel satisfaction when getting more collectibles, and budget their time and money. Those who hoard usually experience embarrassment about their possessions when others see them. They have clutter, often at the expense of livable space, feel sad or ashamed after acquiring additional items, and they may be in debt.

If you think you may be suffering from hoarding, there is good news! There are steps you can take to start being more comfortable letting go of things. Professional organizers encourage their clients to keep only things that make them feel happy in order to improve the flow of their space. A good way to start is simply examine the reason you feel that you need things. Start to think of the emotions you associate with the objects.

Perhaps you are holding on to boxes of old ticket stubs or souvenirs from places you've been to over the years. Think back to those good memories. Feel how happy you felt when you were there. Realize that it is not the physical things you need. You need those happy memories and you already have them inside you. It is not the physical souvenirs you need to keep.

Maybe you are holding on to things you think you’ll be able to sell. Look at this tendency in yourself: are you insecure in your financial future? Are you not trusting that you’ll be able to get everything you need? Realistically, you probably won’t be able to sell all those things unless you become a full-time e-Bay merchant. Is it really worth your time? Maybe you’d be better off just throwing it out, donating it, or giving it away and moving on with your life! Develop your ability to trust that you’ll be able to provide for yourself in the future.



Some people were raised this way- taught by their parents and family to keep everything. Perhaps it is time to examine this old belief, as it may be outdated.

It is important to come to an understanding that hoarders are not just lazy, unmotivated, or selfish. They are people who are suffering with a disease. They need understanding, support, and sympathy because their situation is often scary to them and causes them despair. If you or someone you know suffers from this, approach the issue with kindness and patience.



Kerch, Perch. "Yep, Your Stuff Might Be Making You Sad - Neat-Freak Professional Organizer." Neat-Freak Professional Organizer. N.p., 26 May 2015. Web. 30 July 2015.

Lack, Caleb. "Myths & Misconceptions about Hoarding Disorder • Great Plains Skeptic." Great Plains Skeptic. N.p., 25 Apr. 2014. Web. 29 July 2015.

Neziroglu, Fugen. "Hoarding: The Basics." Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Bio-Behavioral Institute, 2015. Web. 28 July 2015.

Behavioral Care News

The telehealth industry is changing rapidly. Stay informed and get the latest news, events and resources delivered straight to your inbox.

[hubspot type=form portal=3282840 id=47bcac38-f48e-4978-bdb4-8af68e0f3a5d]

If you are in crisis, call 988 to talk with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, text HOME to 741741 to connect to a free crisis counselor, or go to your nearest emergency room.