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Hoarding Disorder: Myth vs Fact

Updated: Oct 26, 2023

Hoarding disorder is a mental health condition characterised by the excessive acquisition of belongings and a persistent inability or unwillingness to discard them. It is estimated that up to 5% of the population may have hoarding disorder, making it more common than obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and schizophrenia.

Despite its prevalence, hoarding disorder is often misunderstood. Many people believe that hoarding is simply a matter of being disorganised or lazy. However, hoarding is a complex mental illness with a variety of causes, including genetics, brain chemistry and life experiences.

the words facts and myths with a black line through myths

Myths about hoarding

Here are some of the most common myths about hoarding disorder:

Myth: Everyone with a cluttered, messy house is a hoarder

Fact: Many people with disorganised and cluttered homes are NOT hoarders. Some may suffer from Diogenes Disease (living in extreme squalor without concern), Depression nesting (where the depression causes them to neglect their surroundings but if someone came in to clear up they would have no trouble throwing things out), ADHD / Autism / OCD / OCPD can all present aspects of 'collecting' and 'hoarding behaviours' but are not necessarily actual hoarding disorder

Myth: Hoarding is just a bad habit.

Fact: Hoarding is a mental illness recognised by the American Psychiatric Association. People who hoard often express shame, sadness, guilt, remorse, and embarrassment at how their illness negatively impacts their lives and those they love.

Myth: People who hoard are lazy and dirty.

Fact: Hoarders can be any age, race, gender, or socioeconomic status. They are often intelligent and successful in other areas of their lives. However, they may struggle to manage their belongings and keep their living spaces clean and organised.

Myth: Hoarding is a hopeless condition.

Fact: With the right treatment, people with hoarding disorder can learn to manage their symptoms. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a particularly effective treatment for hoarding disorder, as it helps people to identify and change the thoughts and behaviour that contribute to their hoarding. Working in the home one on one with a Hoarding Practitioner and/or a Professional Organiser or Decluttering Specialist can help the hoarder to create strategies to manage their symptoms. Hoarders are always in recovery, they are never cured and can relapse if not careful.

Some Important facts about hoarding disorder

Here are some of the most important facts about hoarding disorder:

● Hoarding is a mental illness recognised by the American Psychiatric Association. It is characterised by the persistent difficulty of discarding or parting with possessions, regardless of their actual value.

● Hoarding can have serious consequences. Hoarding can lead to a number of problems, including fire hazards, health risks, social isolation, and financial difficulties. Hoarded homes are often filled with clutter and debris, which can make it difficult to move around safely and can create a breeding ground for pests and mould.

● Hoarding is not easy to overcome. Hoarding disorder is a complex illness that can be difficult to treat. However, with the right support, people with hoarding disorder can learn to manage their symptoms and live more fulfilling lives.

● There is help available. If you or someone you know has hoarding disorder, there are a number of resources available to help. You can contact a mental health professional for assessment and treatment, or you can join a support group for people with hoarding disorder and their loved ones.


How to help someone with a hoarding disorder?

If you know someone with a hoarding disorder, there are a few things you can do to help:

● Be supportive and understanding. It is important to remember that hoarding disorder is a mental illness, and people with hoarding disorder do not choose to live the way they do. Be patient and supportive, and offer your help without judgment.

● Encourage them to seek professional help. The best way to help someone with a hoarding disorder is to encourage them to seek professional help. A mental health professional can assess their condition and develop a treatment plan that is right for them.

● Help them to create a decluttering plan. Once someone with a hoarding disorder has decided to seek help, you can offer to help them create a decluttering plan. This plan should be realistic and achievable, and it should be broken down into small steps.

● Be patient and supportive. Decluttering can be a difficult and emotional process for people with hoarding disorder. Be patient and supportive, and offer your help in any way you can.


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Recommended reading:

'Hoarding: What everyone needs to know' by Gail Steketee and Christiana Bratiotis


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Clearout NI

Therapeutic Decluttering and

De-hoarding services

(Northern Ireland / UK)

Tel: 02895 555 600


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