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Understanding Hoarding Disorder: Symptoms and Causes

Understanding Hoarding Disorder Symptoms and Causes 1

Hoarding disorder is a serious mental health condition characterized by an intense and persistent need to acquire and save items, often leading to disorganization, distress, loss of living space, and other adverse outcomes.

This article will discuss the symptoms and causes of hoarding disorder and ways you can help.

What Is the Difference Between Hoarding and Collecting?

The main difference between hoarding and collecting is the purpose behind it. Collecting involves intentionally pursuing a specific item or items, while hoarding happens unintentionally and without conscious thought.

Hoarders tend to save random items they feel have some value, real or perceived. Their saving behavior can become so intense that it begins to take over their lives, making it difficult or impossible to live in their home and impacting most aspects of life, from relationships to social activities.

Collections are usually neatly organized and can be enjoyed by the collector or even shared with others. Hoarded items are often cluttered and disorganized, and hoarders may feel embarrassed to let anyone else see their mess.

What Are the Reasons for Hoarding?

There is no single cause for hoarding disorder, but there are some common underlying factors you may want to be aware of. People may hoard because of unresolved trauma or loss from their childhood. It could also be a symptom of an underlying mental health condition such as depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), ADHD, schizophrenia, or dementia. Hoarders often have difficulty making decisions and letting go of items, making it difficult to get rid of anything.

Hoarders may also have a distorted belief that the items they hoard are valuable or necessary for survival. This can lead to an irrational fear of losing something important if they get rid of things.

What Are the Symptoms of Hoarding?

The main symptom of hoarding disorder is an excessive accumulation of items that the person cannot discard, typically in the home but potentially in a workspace. This can range from large amounts of clutter to collecting things that most people consider junk. In some cases, hoarders will even hold onto garbage because of the illogically perceived value it has to the hoarder.

Hoarders may also feel intense anxiety when asked to throw away possessions, and they may struggle to make decisions, organize their belongings, or even clean up. They may also experience depression, social isolation, shame, and disability due to the clutter.

Some of the most notable symptoms to look out for include the following:

  • The inability to throw away possessions
  • The inability to throw away what would objectively be deemed “junk”
  • Severe indecision, anxiety, or panic attacks when trying to discard items
  • Difficulty organizing possessions
  • Suspicious of other people touching possessions
  • Feelings of shame, embarrassment, or overwhelm due to growing possessions
  • Obsessive fears related to getting rid of an item – checking the trash, irrational fear of needing an article in the future

If you are concerned about someone exhibiting signs of hoarding disorder, it’s essential to seek professional help as soon as possible. A mental health professional can assess the situation, and a hoarding cleanout service can help to physically remove the junk from their home. Through a combination of professional and practical help, anyone suffering from hoarding disorder can lead a healthier and happier life.

The Consequences of Hoarding

The consequences of hoarding can spread far and wide, impacting various areas of the hoarder’s life, from social interaction and relationships to safety and health risks.

Relationship Strain

Hoarding can cause strain within a relationship, as family members and friends may not understand why someone cannot let go of items that appear useless. This can lead to arguments and disagreements that further damage the relationship. When a loved one tries to bring up the hoarding, the hoarder may feel great anxiety. Seeing that loved one in distress over the hoarding can cause even more concern for the hoarder. This creates a vicious cycle, with everyone feeling stressed and overwhelmed.

For couples or families who live together, when there is one hoarder, the behaviors are often tolerated or ignored at first. At the same time, the hoarding collection builds over time until it becomes an issue of tolerance. This can become an explosive topic in the home, and things only get more complicated if children are involved.

Knowing how to talk to a loved one about their hoarding problem is challenging, but without a productive conversation, nothing changes, and the situation only worsens.


The clutter caused by hoarding can make maintaining relationships outside the home challenging. Hoarders may be embarrassed by their living environment and avoid inviting visitors or visiting others’ homes. This can lead to feelings of loneliness and exacerbate depression, further driving the desire to hold onto items that are no longer needed or valuable.

Shame around hoarding at home can also keep hoarders from leaving their homes due to overwhelming anxiety. Without an accessible way for others to visit the house, the distance between hoarders and their loved ones grows even more expansive.

Social Activities

Hoarders may also start to miss out on social activities, such as attending family gatherings, going on group outings, or even just casual get-togethers. The fear of judgment from others and embarrassment over their living environment can lead them to avoid situations where they are expected to interact with people outside their homes. This can quickly cause a hoarder to become even more socially isolated.

Diminished Quality of Life

Hoarding can lead to a severe decrease in quality of life, whether due to financial strain from spending on unnecessary items, voluntary social isolation, or risking health and safety by living in an environment cluttered with hazardous objects. This puts hoarders at risk for injury and illness if unsafe conditions are not addressed. In extreme cases, hoarding can even lead to homelessness.

Fire Hazards

Hoarding can also create safety risks in the home that may require legal action, such as fire hazards from excessive clutter blocking pathways or exits. This creates an incredibly unsafe living environment for both the hoarder and those around them, with fire departments noting that hoarding-related fires can spread quickly due to the number of items that could potentially catch on fire.

This is when hoarder cleanout services become necessary to keep hoarders and others who live there safe.

Health Code Violations

In addition to the physical risks of hoarding, there are often unhealthy conditions in hoarder homes, such as mold growth and rodent or insect infestations. Such conditions can lead to health code violations, making it difficult for neighbors near a hoarder’s home, the hoarder, and those who live with them.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Hoarding an Anxiety Disorder?

Yes, hoarding is classified as a type of anxiety disorder known as Hoarding Disorder, according to the DSM-5. Those suffering from Hoarding Disorder have difficulty discarding items, often leading to excessive clutter in their homes and other living spaces.

How Common is Hoarding Disorder?

According to the American Psychiatric Association, Hoarding Disorder has an overall prevalence of 2.6% in the general population. However, the exact prevalence is difficult to quantify since hoarders often live in isolation and are reluctant to seek help.

Can Hoarding Disorder Be Prevented?

Hoarding Disorder cannot be prevented because doctors understand so little about what causes it in the first place, but it is manageable with various forms of treatment. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can be an effective form of treatment.

Know a Hoarder Who Needs Help Discarding Possessions? Call Us.

If you know of a hoarder who needs help discarding their possessions, don’t hesitate to reach out for professional hoarding cleanout services from Nixxit Junk. Our team is experienced in providing compassionate care and safe disposal of items so hoarders can begin healing and reclaiming their homes – and life. Call us today.

Need Help with a Hoarder Cleanout in the Bay Area, CA?

Nixxit Junk Removal can help with your hoarder cleanout needs in the Bay Area.

  • 10+ Years of Experience Working with Hoarders
  • Locally Owned and Operated
  • Sensitive and Discreet Approach
  • Full-Service Removal and Sorting
  • Donation and Recycling
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nixxitjunk · Apr 26