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.

Hoarding FAQs

Explore the following collection of relevant and commonly asked questions about hoarding to learn more about this disorder.

Yes. According to the most recent version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), hoarding disorder is a psychological condition that affects a person’s mental, emotional, and physical health. Hoarding causes significant psychological distress and can severely impair a person’s daily functioning. This disorder has two defining characteristics: the perceived need to save objects (which may be worthless), and persistent difficulty in parting with the items, regardless of their actual value.
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.
No. Hoarding disorder is a mental health condition, but it’s not exactly a mood disorder. Mood disorders are characterized by significant changes in mood, like sadness that lasts for a long time, or drastic mood swings. These symptoms are common with conditions like depression, seasonal affective disorder and bipolar disorder, but not hoarding disorder.
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.
In the DSM, hoarding disorder is grouped with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and related disorders. Hoarding is closely related to OCD, but the two are not the same. Not everyone who has OCD struggles with hoarding, and hoarding disorder can occur on its own.
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.
No. Hoarding is not considered an anxiety disorder. It is more closely related to OCD. However, many people who have hoarding disorder also experience some form of anxiety, whether it is anxious thoughts or a type of anxiety disorder. One of the defining features of hoarding disorder is overwhelming distress about parting with possessions. People who live with hoarding disorder may experience feelings of anxiety at the thought of discarding, donating or getting rid of any hoarded items. According to the DSM, nearly 75 percent of people with hoarding disorder also have a co-occurring anxiety disorder.

No. Hoarding disorder is not considered a medical condition, but it can severely impair a person’s mental and physical health. Hoarding disorder can lead to an unsafe living environment. Depending on the type of objects, hoarding can involve serious health and safety issues, tripping hazards and health code violations.

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:

  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Cerebrovascular disease
  • Central nervous system infections
  • Prader-Willi syndrome
  • Neurocognitive disorders, like Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Intellectual developmental disorder
  • Schizophrenia spectrum and other psychotic disorders

Additional FAQs