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Explains hoarding, including possible causes and how you can access treatment and support. Includes tips for helping yourself, and guidance for friends and family.
Hoarding is acquiring or saving lots of things regardless of their value.
If you hoard, you might:
"I'm terrified of having visitors to my home, as I'm secretive of our hoarding situation and my worst OCD triggers are here too."
Many people have some belongings they consider special and it's common to save some things because they could come in useful in the future. Hoarding is when your need to keep things causes you distress or interferes with your day to day life. If you think you might be hoarding, our sections on self-care and treatments have some suggestions for you to consider.
People might disagree on what is hoarding and whether it's causing problems for you. Someone else (such as a friend, family member or healthcare professional) might say you are hoarding when you don't think you are.
It is increasingly being recognised that hoarding can be a condition by itself, as well as sometimes being a symptom of other mental health problems. People used to think hoarding was a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), but research suggests they are not the same.
For these reasons hoarding disorder has been listed as a distinct mental health problem in the DSM-5 and ICD-11 (manuals that doctors use to categorise and diagnose mental health problems).
You might hoard by itself or as part of another mental health problem.
"My mum sleeps on a small patch of her sofa. I don't know the last time she slept in a bed, but it has been several years."
Hoarding can also be caused by some other conditions (for example dementia or brain injury) which are generally diagnosed and treated differently to mental health problems – in these situations, the information in these pages might not apply. For more about other types of conditions, see the NHS website.
Hoarding could affect you in lots of different ways. For example, you might:
"Christmas and other holidays fill me with fear as the few family who know my situation keep pushing for an in-law to visit us regardless. I feel violated and trapped."
You might find that other people focus a lot on the effects hoarding can have on your home or other physical spaces, and that they don't really understand how you feel or why acquiring and saving things feels important for you.
Many people have heard of hoarding, but this doesn't mean that they understand it. Misconceptions about hoarding can sometimes come from the media, including TV shows – which often fail to show how varied people's experiences of hoarding can be or how they might feel.
Hoarding doesn't mean you just need help tidying up and it's unhelpful if people try to do this for you. It can be frustrating and upsetting if people don't understand this, but it's important to remember that you are not alone.
See our page on stigma and misconceptions for lots of ideas on how to deal with stigma.
"My bedroom became particularly bad with the floor covered in clothes... I could no longer open the wardrobe or drawers... random stuff [was] spilling into plastic bags on the floor. Eventually I needed a leak fixing and the landlady came round, and she gave me notice to leave."
This information was published in September 2018. We will revise it in 2021.
References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.