Hoarding Disorder Frequently Asked Questions

+ What is hoarding disorder?

People with hoarding disorder excessively save items that others may view as worthless. They have persistent difficulty getting rid of or parting with possessions, leading to clutter that disrupts their ability to use their living or work spaces.

+ When does hoarding/clutter become a problem?

Hoarding and clutter becomes a problem when it prevents people from being able to use their living spaces as intended, creates health or safety risks, and/or causes distress or impairment in their day to day living. An avid collector may acquire things but generally will not experience negative consequences as a result of their hobby.

+ Why can’t we just get rid of the hoard?

Simply getting rid of clutter, or clean-outs, can be extremely traumatic for someone with hoarding disorder. Cleanups may remove the items temporarily and work in the short term. However, this approach does not address the beliefs that contribute to the hoarding behavior, and it is likely that accumulation will occur again.

+ How many people are affected by hoarding?

It is estimated that around 2% – 6% of the population suffers from hoarding disorder, and it appears to affect men and women at similar rates.

+ Is it primarily a problem among older adults?

Hoarding symptoms appear to be almost three times more common in older adults (ages 55-94 years) compared to younger adults (ages 34–44 years), although hoarding symptoms can occur in young children, as well.

+ Does hoarding disorder run in families?

Yes, hoarding disorder is more common among people who have a family member who has hoarding disorder. The cause of hoarding disorder remains unknown. Genetics is likely only one part of why hoarding disorder affects a particular individual; environment plays a role, too.

+ What is involved in therapy for a person with hoarding disorder?

There are multiple types of help for individuals with hoarding disorder, including self-help books, support groups, individual and/or group therapy. New studies are underway examining internet-based treatments. Emerging evidence supports peer-facilitated group treatments.

+ What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy is an umbrella term that describes a variety of techniques used to teach people to recognize distorted thinking or beliefs, restructure their thinking, and control their response (behavior). For those with HD, the most effective treatment is cognitive behavioral therapy/exposure and response prevention. An afflicted person is presented with anxiety-provoking stimuli, starting with the least problematic, and is taught to make a choice not to respond with the usual compulsive behavior. Over time, the person learns to confront dreaded thoughts, images, objects, and situations with less anxiety and with less or no reaction.

+ How successful is treatment for hoarding?

Hoarding disorder can be treated and there is hope for returning to a normal life. Typically, individuals will continue to face challenges throughout their lives. Staying in treatment may decrease chances that hoarding symptoms and clutter will return.

+ How does the Rhode Island Hoarding Task Force work to help people with hoarding disorder?

The task force is a volunteer group comprised of health agents, first responders, medical and mental health professionals, social service providers, attorneys, and private business owners committed to working together to resolve complicated cases in a compassionate and professional manner. The group meets to discuss best practices, case consultation, and educational presentations on topics relating to hoarding disorder.