The Psychology of Hoarding

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Hoarding disorder is a mental health condition that affects almost three percent of adults, according to the American Psychiatric Association (APA). This condition is characterized by saving items with little to no use or worth, such as old clothing, magazines, and broken household goods. A person suffering from hoarding disorder will quickly find themselves accumulating items until these belongings overrun their living space or break out into other places. Aside from the mental and emotional damage that hoarding can cause, hoarding disorder can also create physical hazards to the hoarder and their family’s health by creating an unsafe living environment.

Since hoarding has entered the public eye through avenues like the popular reality shows “Hoarders” and “Hoarding: Buried Alive,” more people are beginning to understand this condition. However, to fully understand hoarding disorder and help those struggling with it, you need to understand the psychology of hoarding. Today, we’ll examine the psychology behind hoarding and how someone can help, such as using a 5 x 5 storage unit to organize belongings, which we’ll cover more below.

What are the signs and symptoms of hoarding disorder?


The first sign of hoarding disorder is saving excessive numbers of random items. Over time, the clutter may build up until there’s little to no living or storage space remaining. Symptoms of hoarding disorder can start as early as the early teenage years. As the person ages, the symptoms usually worsen and become more embedded into their everyday life.

In many cases, hoarders store things inside their homes. As a result, hoarding frequently goes unnoticed for extended times as they may avoid allowing other people into the house. Unfortunately, not allowing people inside only worsens their mental state as it isolates them.

Some other signs and symptoms of hoarding include becoming upset when objects are thrown out, indecisiveness, procrastination, and disorganization.

Why do people hoard?


There is no clear-cut answer as to why people hoard or how they develop hoarding disorder. However, several mental illnesses coincide with hoarding disorder, putting people with these conditions at a greater risk of hoarding. Most people with hoarding disorder have some mood or anxiety disorder. Some mental illnesses that typically coincide with hoarding disorder include obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), dementia symptoms, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The good news is that those diagnosed with one or more of these conditions receive treatment sooner due to the pre-existing diagnosis.

Aside from mental illness, hoarders often have their reasons for why they hoard. These reasons are how they justify the hoard and typically a response to the mental illness behind it. One of the most common reasons is that they believe the belongings are beneficial or will become valuable in the future. The second most common justification is that they claim all of the items in their hoard hold deep sentimental value and are unique or irreplaceable, even if it’s a used napkin or similar useless item. Finally, the last most common reason is that they feel their items were bought at too much of a bargain to be wasted by throwing them out.

Some less common reasons for hoarding include considering the belongings to be reminders that will jog their memory when they see them or can’t find a place for it, so keeping it is better than throwing it out.

There is help for hoarding disorder.

The most common treatment for hoarding disorder is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). However, group therapy and family therapy are also highly effective treatments. If you’re looking to help a loved one or friend with a hoarding disorder, you can only help when they’re ready for help. One effective way to sort through the hoard is to use a self-storage unit to store belongings as they’re sorted through. This method frees up living space while allowing the person to go through and sort out their belongings to decide what to keep and what to toss. The most important thing to remember is that there is help, and there’s no shame in seeking it.