Compulsive hoarding is a disorder that affects anywhere from 700,000 to 1.4 million people in the United States. There may be a genetic component to hoarding disorder and it also frequently occurs with other mental illnesses. For hoarders, there is a sense of distress and anxiety that occurs if they think about getting rid of something or throwing it away. If they feel forced into doing it, their distress can be severe.
Explore the following collection of relevant and commonly asked questions about hoarding to learn more about this disorder.
With hoarding disorder, the excessive acquisition of objects is compulsive. A person feels like they have to buy or save specific items despite consequences like a cluttered living space or illness from saving unsanitary items. The person may experience overwhelming, psychological distress at the prospect of discarding any hoarded objects.
However, someone who has hoarding disorder may also struggle with mood disorders. The DSM states that more than 50 percent of people who have hoarding disorder also have major depressive disorder. When both conditions are present, they are called co-occurring disorders. Professional treatment may be necessary to heal from co-occurring mood and hoarding disorders.
One of the main characteristics of hoarding disorder is the excessive acquisition of objects because of a genuine desire to possess the items. This kind of acquisition is not usually a symptom of OCD. If a person who has OCD also hoards objects, their hoarding behavior is typically tied to a specific obsession, such as buying items that they have touched to avoid contaminating other people.
Hoarding behaviors that are associated with OCD are typically unwanted, distressing and tied to specific obsessions like cleanliness. With hoarding disorder, the acquiring of objects is linked to a perceived need to save items of sentimental worth or value, and discarding such objects is profoundly distressing. Another key difference between the two disorders is that people who have OCD may hoard odd items like human feces, rotten food or hair. People who have hoarding disorder do not typically save such items.
If a person’s hoarding symptoms stem directly from obsessions and compulsions that are typically associated with OCD, they will likely not be diagnosed with hoarding disorder. For example, someone may compulsively hoard specific objects because of feelings of incompleteness, which is a common symptom of OCD. This person will likely be diagnosed with OCD, not hoarding disorder.
A medical professional or mental health practitioner can determine whether someone struggles with OCD, hoarding disorder or both. However, having both of these conditions is relatively rare; only about 20 percent of people who have hoarding disorder also have OCD, according to the DSM.
In rare cases, a person’s hoarding behaviors stem directly from a specific medical condition. In these instances, a person will not be diagnosed with hoarding disorder, according to the DSM. Hoarding behaviors can arise from the presence of other medical conditions, including: