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What do we mean by Hoarding?

Hoarding is a common condition and almost everyone has some hoarding traits – collecting things excessively and having difficulty getting rid of items. When these traits begin to disrupt your life and clutter your living environment to the extent that you cannot use it for the purpose it was intended, then it may have become a compulsion, and you may have hoarding disorder.

People with hoarding disorder save and collect things to excess and find it very difficult to get rid of items. They often have a cluttered living space at home or elsewhere and experience distress and find it hard to function fully within their personal or work environment when it no longer functions for its intended purpose. For example, a bedroom may not be useable for sleeping or a kitchen may not have space in which to prepare and cook meals.

Hoarding becomes a problem when it starts affecting the ability of a person to live in the comfort and safety of their own home. Additionally, clutter becomes a health and safety issue not only to them, but also to those living with them and their neighbours. Fire poses the greatest risk, followed by the possibility of infestation by vermin. Injuries from tripping and falls are common and, in the extreme, people have been reported to have died after being buried under their clutter.

Often people become very distressed when they come under the scrutiny of statutory authorities such as environmental health, housing departments and emergency services. Officials view excessive clutter as something with the potential to endanger the hoarder and this can lead to prosecution. Furthermore, legal action can result in an individual’s home being forcefully cleared and increases emotional distress, stigmatisation and discrimination.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual 5 (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association, has a category for hoarding disorder or compulsive hoarding, as it was formally known.  Hoarding is currently considered both an isolated disorder and as a symptom of a related condition, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).