It’s official – hoarders are sick

Hoarder Disorder IS a mental illness  >  Compulsive hoarding has been classified as a mental health disorder for the first time by the World Health Organisation (WHO). Medics claim the move could benefit thousands of people.

Psychiatrists have heralded the decision as ‘extremely significant’ as it will help doctors and the NHS identify people struggling with a hoarding disorder and improve treatment for a condition campaigners say affects up to 5% of the population.

Critics cry ‘cobblers’, saying that putting a label on a simple obsession gives it a medical respectability that panders to hypochondriacs.

WHO has none it. It states that out-of-control hoarding is characterised by an ‘accumulation of possessions due to excessive acquisition of or difficulty discarding possessions, regardless of their actual value‘. It now classifies hoarding disorder as a mental illness separate from other disorders, when previously extreme hoarding was classified as merely a symptom or sub-type of obsessive-compulsive disorder.

A hoarding disorder specialist explained, “The problem is more common in people with psychological disorders such as depression, anxiety and attention deficit hyperactivity. Other factors often associated with pack rats include alcohol dependence and paranoid, schizotypal and avoidance traits”.

Until now, those watching the mocking documentaries on daytime TV about compulsive hoarders, may have reconciled themselves by saying, ‘Well, at least I am not as bad as those sad maties“.  But do they now have reason to worry?

We asked our callers. “In my opinion hoarding is only a problem if you can’t find your cat,” joked one client.  Other replies included “it is not hoarding if it is books or wine” …. ” I prefer the term collector, as hoarder sounds too negative“, while one sage replied, “hoarding one’s hurt only hurts the hoarder“.

One client confessed, “If there was a reality show about email hoarding I would be a star”, while another said, “I am something of a digital hoarder – instantly pinning something on Pininterest because I fear I will never find it again. And yet I know I will never look at it again!”.

The real answer to the question is that apart from extreme cases –  as the lady pictured – there are better things to worry about. Certainly if you turn up at A&E with a self-diagnosis of having a hoarder disorder, you will get a frosty response.

Maybe your hoarding can be explained as insecurity, a desire to avoid wastefulness, a hobby out of control, severe emotional attachment to inanimate objects, or an extreme anxiety when making decisions. But whatever the cause, if your extreme hoarding really is a silent cry for help, then you know who to phone.

The alternative is to dump the lot and declare yourself a orthophobe. Better hurry though, as minimalism and obsessive compulsive decluttering are sure to be declared mental disorders before the year is out.

Footnote > Hoarding compulsion is a worldwide phenomenon with no shortage of help groups. They range from that offered by Mental Health Today in Britain to cluttertrucker in the States.


20 thoughts on “It’s official – hoarders are sick

  1. Anne-Marie York (Dr retired) says:

    This is 100% a psychological condition and not a lifestyle choice. It can be associated with numerous mental health conditions, including anxiety, depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, PTSD or OCD. A little more sympathy would not go amiss.

    • Hoarding has only come to public awareness thanks to the TV shows. Viewers simply latch hold of the fame and impose the symptoms on themselves. They are NOT ill, just delusional.

    • Duncan says:

      While severe hoarding is most common in middle-aged adults around the age of 50, their hoarding tendencies usual begin in their early teen years. This is the time when feelings of insecurity and self doubt develop. Hoarders are often socially withdrawn and isolated, causing them to hoard as a way to find comfort. Find the catalyst and you will find the cure.

  2. Greg Thom says:

    If you entered a hoarder’s home, you would immediately know by the smell! It comes from mildew and the rotting food. The filthy environment can lead to frequent or chronic illness. Obviously, social interactions and relationships become progressively more difficult for a hoarder. Even keeping a job can prove challenging because of sickness and lack of hygiene.

    • Mary (Ipswich) says:

      I like collecting. I don’t have to have the latest fashion, and some dresses come out once a year at Christmas – they are very old, but I love them, and I have always tried to buy things that won’t date. So I suppose I have clutter. My clutter makes me happy. By some people’s standards, I probably hoard. But as to being ill – that is nonsense. It seems to me that this is an invented disorder based on everyday living so the pharmaceutical industry can provide a pill to suppress it.

      • Mandy M says:

        It is so difficult to throw junk away, especially when it holds happy memories. It is also inevitable that the moment you are brave enough to throw something away, you will find a need for it, so why take the risk?

  3. It can be hard to determine whether a person is a hoarder or just someone who just likes to hang on to things. The main determiner of whether a behaviour is just a personal preference or a disorder, has to do with whether or not, and how much that behaviour has a negative impact on daily life.

    • Paula (a normal girl) says:

      So does this ‘sick’ label include the Baby Boomers who entered a world where everything was in short supply and nothing was thrown out. Children of the Baby Boomers grew up used to wearing something until it wore out, and never saw the need for dozens of shoes. We used to have jumble sales which meant a regular sort out of everything in the house, without any guilt about throwing something we were simply bored of. Ill? Rubbish – just frugal

    • Sloane-girl says:

      Hoarding both relieves anxiety and produces it. The more sufferers accumulate, the more insulated they feel from reality. Of course, the more they accumulate, the more isolated they become – even the thought of discarding or cleaning out hoarded items produces extreme feelings of panic and discomfort. These people need real help.

  4. Scarlet R says:

    Although hoarding is not an entirely genetic disorder, there are some genetic predisposition involved. For example, hoarders are often socially withdrawn and isolated, causing them to hoard as a way to find comfort. As to the solution? Well, psychologists continue to search for effective treatments. When a world is awash in worry and fear, and when accumulating things becomes a way to deflect and manage those feelings, the stack of junk in our homes will keep getting bigger.

  5. Mary (client 111) says:

    Guilty. I’m a hoarder as I want to remember my past. It is who I am. My clothes go back to the heady 60’s era, I have my school reports, and all the books I have read and loved. I am told I am living in a time wharp and I can live with that criticism. I am not sick – I am happy

  6. John-01 says:

    The typical hoarder is just an unorganised person who lacks organisation skills and puts off sorting through clutter. A compulsive hoarder takes this tendency to the extreme – not just procrastinating, but purposely keeping things other people would dump. In my opinion compulsive hoarding behaviour indicates a psychological illness.

  7. George (Rotherham) says:

    Hoarding is always accompanied by varying levels of anxiety and sometime develops alongside other mental illnesses such as dementia and schizophrenia. Recent neuro-imaging reveals peculiar commonalities among hoarders

  8. Quince says:

    It is a VERY secretive disorder and none of my family or friends are aware. I am unable to get into my bathroom, which means I am unable shower. I am also unable to get into my kitchen in order to do my washing and have clean clothes. Obviously relationships are out of the question. I feel so alone, so afraid, so ashamed. Please do not mock me and people like me.

  9. Danny-Boy says:

    Why does everything have to be a medical disorder? Get a grip guys. Maybe there should be a medical condition for medics who are trying to make out that everybody has a medical condition in order to keep themselves in jobs?

    • me (Client 56) says:

      if it means i can get a blue disabled parking badge then i am all for it
      i am really sick

    • Janice says:

      I am not a hoarder just an avid collector. For me, minimalists are the strange ones who need help

  10. just a friend says:

    I had a neighbour who would never let me into her flat. When she died I found her home filled with a history of compulsive buying,including boxes and racks of unused shoes and clothes. Everything was bagged and wrapped with receipts attached dating back years. I always thought she was short of money as she walked around quite ordinarily dressed. I never knew she lived liked that. How sad.

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