Hoarding disorder is characterized by persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions, regardless of their actual value, as a result of a strong perceived need to save the items and to distress associated with discarding them. Individuals with hoarding disorder purposefully save possessions and experience distress when facing the prospect of discarding them.
Hoarding disorder differs from normal collecting. For example, symptoms of hoarding disorder result in the accumulation of a large number of possessions that congest and clutter active living areas to the extent that their intended use is substantially compromised. The excessive acquisition form of hoarding disorder, which characterizes most but not all individuals with hoarding disorder, consists of excessive collecting, buying, or stealing of items that are not needed or for which there is no available space. Individuals accumulate large numbers of items that fill up and clutter active living areas to the extent that their intended use is no longer possible (Criterion C). For example, the individual may not be able to cook in the kitchen, sleep in his or her bed, or sit in a chair. If the space can be used, it is only with great difficulty.
Hoarding appears to begin early in life and spans well into the late stages. Hoarding symptoms may first emerge around ages 11–15 years, start interfering with the individual’s everyday functioning by the mid-20s, and cause clinically significant impairment by the mid-30s(Grisham et al. 2006; Landau et al. 2011; Tolin et al. 2010b). Individuals with hoarding disorder often retrospectively report stressful and traumatic life events preceding the onset of the disorder or causing an exacerbation(Grisham et al. 2006; Landau et al. 2011).
Individuals who have hoarding disorder may experience the below symptoms:
- Difficulty in parting with possessions (including throwing away, selling, giving away, or recycling possessions)
- Compulsive saving of items such as newspapers, books, and paperwork for fear of losing important information
- Clutters in living areas such as bed, living room, kitchen to the point that these living areas cannot function well
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders. In Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC. https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.books.9780890425596.dsm06
Grisham JR , Frost RO , Steketee G , et al: Age of onset of compulsive hoarding. J Anxiety Disord 20(5):675–686 2006
Landau D , Iervolino AC , Pertusa A , et al: Stressful life events and material deprivation in hoarding disorder. J Anxiety Disord 25(2):192–202, 2011
Tolin DF , Meunier SA , Frost RO , Steketee G : Course of compulsive hoarding and its relationship to life events: Depress Anxiety 27(9):829–838, 2010b