Hoarding Disorder Frequently Asked Questions

Hoarding is defined as the excessive acquisition of items and/or the inability to discard items resulting in a cluttered living environment.  Clutter becomes a problem when it interferes with using living space for it’s intended purpose or causes significant distress. Clutter problems can range in severity from mild (only cause minimal difficulties) to severe (cause substantial impairment in day-to-day routines).

Hoarding disorder is a mental health condition than can result in a loss of control over the clutter. People with hoarding disorder excessively save items that others may view as having little value. They persistently have difficulty getting rid of or parting with possessions, leading to clutter that disrupts their ability to use and/or function in their living or workspaces. They may also have difficulty resisting urges to acquire additional items.

Some people believe that individuals with HD should be able to manage their issues more independently.  Many individuals with HD have neurocognitive diversity including executive functioning issues and other challenges that impact their functioning.  Specific challenges may include making plans, understanding procedures, remembering instructions, generating ideas, problem solving, thinking flexibly or abstractly, juggling multiple tasks, basic daily living skills, safety, insight, and related distress.

Simply getting rid of clutter, or clean-outs, can be extremely traumatic for someone with HD. Cleanups may remove the items temporarily and work in the short term. However, this approach does not address the beliefs that contribute to the behaviors, and it is likely that accumulation will occur again.

There are many different reasons why clutter can accumulate. Sometimes people lack insight into their risk for eviction and loss of housing related to clutter. Mental health issues when unstable, untreated, or undertreated should not be a reason for eviction. Eviction is not a motivational tool for resolving hoarding conditions. Supports, services, and treatment prevents premature institutionalization and homelessness.

It is estimated that around 2% – 6% of the population suffers from HD and it appears to affect men and women at similar rates.

HD symptoms appear to be almost three times more common in older adults (ages 55-94 years) compared to younger adults (ages 34–44 years), although hoarding symptoms can occur in young children, as well.

Yes, hoarding disorder is more common among people who have a family member who has HD. The cause of hoarding disorder remains unknown. Genetics is likely only one part of why hoarding disorder affects a particular individual; environment plays a role, too.

There are multiple types of help for individuals with hoarding disorder, including self-help books, support groups, individual and/or group therapy. Internet-based treatments continue to develop. Emerging evidence supports peer-facilitated group treatments and compassion therapies.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is an umbrella term that describes a variety of techniques used to help people understand why it is so difficult to let go of possessions. It involves learning to recognize unhelpful thinking or beliefs, tolerate unpleasant emotions, and learn new habits. CBT also involves skills training to help people learn to organize their possessions, problem-solve, and make decisions.

Hoarding disorder can be treated and there is hope for returning to a normal life. Typically, individuals will continue to face challenges throughout their lives. Staying in treatment may decrease chances that hoarding symptoms and clutter will return.

The task force is a volunteer group comprised of health agents, first responders, medical and mental health professionals, social service providers, attorneys, private business owners, family members and individuals committed to working together to improve the availability and quality of services for individuals and families impacted by excessive accumulation, clutter and hoarding disorder through education, advocacy, networking, and increased public awareness.