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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Symptoms of hoarding

A compulsive hoarder typically:

  • may keep or collect items that are of no value, like junk mail and carrier bags, or items they intend to re-use or repair
  • finds it hard to throw anything away, and just moves items from one pile to another
  • finds it hard to categorise or organise items
  • has difficulties making decisions and struggles to manage everyday tasks, such as cooking, cleaning and paying bills
  • becomes obsessively attached to items, refusing to let anyone touch or borrow them
  • does not socialise with other people

Some studies suggest that hoarding often starts in the teenage years (as early as 13 or 14), where broken toys or school papers may be collected. The hoarding then becomes worse with age.

Why might compulsive hoarding be a problem?

Compulsive hoarding is a problem for several reasons.

Because of the amount of clutter, the person may not be able to use the rooms in their house for their intended purpose, or even be able to sit in a chair without having to move things.

In extreme cases the piles of clutter can become a fire risk, and can result in the hoarder tripping and falling. And because the home is virtually impossible to clean, living conditions tend to be very unhygienic and can lead to rodent or insect infestations, blocked drains and other problems that may also affect neighbouring properties. 

The hoarder is usually reluctant or unable to have visitors, or even allow tradesmen in to carry out essential repairs.

They quickly become isolated and lonely and are often prone to anxiety and depression. The hoarding probably brings them comfort, but deep down they are unhappy.

They may ignore the pleas of family and friends to get help, as they do not see it as a problem or cannot bring themselves to tackle it.

The hoarding literally takes over the person's life, causing their work performance, personal hygiene and social life to suffer.

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