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Hoarding, OCD, and OCPD: What’s the Connection?

Most people assume that all messy people are hoarders. They see the stacks and stacks of papers, or an overflowing rubbish bin and jump to the conclusion that this person has clinically diagnosable Hoarding Disorder. However, that might not be the case. There are a number of disorders that are connected to hoarding behaviours, but don’t qualify explicitly as Hoarding Disorder. Let’s look at Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD):

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Hoarding Disorder

In order to meet the clinical criteria for hoarding, your loved one must collect and keep a lot of items. This includes items that appear useless or of little value to everyone else, but to your loved one, each item in the hoard holds deep meaning and should not be thrown away. These items must significantly impact the function of your loved one’s living spaces, and they must cause distress or problems in day-to-day activities.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a mental disorder where a person has recurrent intrusive thoughts that often compel them to engage in repetitive behaviours to alleviate the anxiety caused by the thoughts. OCD obsessions and compulsions have a wide range of focus, from germaphobia to obsession with religious purity.

People with OCD realise that these thoughts and fears are not real, but are largely unable to stop themselves from taking action to quiet the anxious obsessions. A person with hoarding OCD has a fear associated with taking an action to clean. For example, if they have a fear that throwing something in the garbage will make them unclean, they may feel the need to scrub their hands raw to alleviate the fear. To avoid the anxiety, they might then refuse to throw things away as a result.

Obsessive compulsive personality disorder

Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder

Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder, or OCPD, is a personality disorder marked by a persistent need to be in control. This differs from OCD because it does not have intrusive thoughts relating to obsessions or compulsions. Instead, OCPD is marked by excessive orderliness, control, rules, and an inflexibility in approaching these self-imposed rules. It is also a lifelong style of operating, compared to OCD, which can have fluctuating symptoms.

Many people are familiar with the manifestation of OCPD where someone is excessively clean and needs things arranged a certain way. However, this need for structure can be applied to any number of things, including when it’s appropriate to throw an item away or not. Some individuals with OCPD can be fixated on frugality, for example, and may hold on to tattered, used-up, or worn items because they remember how much it cost and they do not want the item to go to waste.

What should you do when you suspect hoarding behaviours are linked to OCD and/or OCPD?

Before addressing the hoarding behaviours, it is important to get the OCD and/or OCPD clinically diagnosed and treated. Encourage the person you have observed displaying these behaviours to seek advice from their healthcare professionals as soon as possible.


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Further reading:

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Clearout NI

Therapeutic Decluttering and

De-hoarding services

(Northern Ireland / UK)

Tel: 02895 555 600


(This post contains Amazon Affiliate links. If you use these links to buy something we may earn a commission through qualifying purchases. Links are not recommendations unless stated)

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