Explains hoarding, including possible causes and how you can access treatment and support. Includes tips for helping yourself, and guidance for friends and family.

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This Information is provided by NHS Choices.

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What causes hoarding?

The reasons why someone becomes a hoarder are still not fully understood. However, the problem tends to persist because:

  • the person finds it difficult to discard things
  • they may have problems with order, organisation and decision-making
  • they acquire more things than they throw away

The person will also have unhelpful beliefs, such as:

I may need this some day

If I throw this away, I won't be able to cope with the feelings of loss

If I buy this, it will make me happy

Attempts to discard things often bring up very strong emotions that can feel overwhelming, so the hoarder tends to put off or avoid making decisions about what can be thrown out.

Often, many of the things kept are of little or no monetary value, and may be what most people would consider rubbish. The person may acquire several of the same items because they are unable to find what they need, or they may have stockpiled food or clothes "just in case".

A person is more likely to become a compulsive hoarder if:

  • there is a family history of hoarding
  • they have experienced deprivation
  • they grew up in a cluttered home
  • they have another mental health condition, such as anxiety, depression or social phobia (a fear of social occasions)
  • they are struggling to cope with a stressful life event, such as the death of a loved one
  • they have a history of alcohol dependence
  • they are lonely (hoarding brings comfort)

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