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Conditions: Hoarding

What is hoarding?

Hoarding refers to acquiring or saving lots of things regardless of their value.

Hoarding is considered a significant problem if the amount of clutter is excessive and interferes with everyday living – for example, the person is unable to use their kitchen or bathroom and cannot access certain rooms. The clutter can also cause significant distress or adversely impact the quality of life of the person or their family – for example, they become upset if someone tries to clear the clutter and their relationships suffer as a result. Often, many of the things kept are of little or no monetary value, however, most people with a hoarding disorder have a very strong emotional attachment to their objects. People might disagree on what constitutes hoarding and whether it is 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. Hoarding is when your need to keep things causes you distress or interferes with your day-to-day life. Difficulties discarding objects can not only cause loneliness and mental health problems but also pose a health and safety risk. Hoarding can therefore be associated with self-neglect too. An important distinction needs to be made between a "hoard" and a "collection". Namely, a “collection” is usually well ordered and organised, and the items are easily accessible. A “hoard” is usually very disorganised, takes up a lot of room and the items are largely inaccessible.

 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. It was previously though that hoarding was a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), but research now suggests they are not the same.

When to seek help?

  • You have very strong positive feelings whenever you get more items, and you feel very upset or anxious at the thought of throwing or giving things away

  • You find it very hard to decide what to keep or get rid of and any attempts to discard things often bring up very strong emotions that can feel extremely overwhelming

  • You keep or collect items that may have little or no monetary value, such as junk mail and carrier bags, or items they intend to reuse or repair

  • You find it hard to categorise or organise items and you struggle to find what you need

  • You struggle to get around your home or you find it hard to manage everyday tasks, such as cooking or cleaning as you are unable to use parts of your home for their intended purpose (such as washing machine for example) because of the clutter

  • You are unable to safely leave your home quickly in an emergency

  • You become extremely attached to items, refusing to let anyone touch or borrow them

  • You feel ashamed and lonely

  • You avoid letting people into your home or have difficulty answering the door

  • You have poor relationships with family or friends, or you distance yourself from other people, because you don't want them to know about your situation or because they say or do things that don't feel helpful for you

Treatment recommendations

The therapist will help the person to understand what makes it difficult to throw things away and the reasons why the clutter has built up. The selected treatment would be individually tailored to your needs following a comprehensive assessment process in our service.

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