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Hoarding is a mental illness

In the UK, it’s estimated 2.5-6% of the population is affected by a hoarding disorder. Hoarding often begins in adolescence and can become a problem for people in their 30s. The average age of people seeking treatment is about 50. Do you know a hoarder?


What is hoarding? 

It’s a clinical disorder that exists when someone accumulates many items and finds it difficult to get rid of things regardless of their actual value. The exact cause of hoarding is not known, but it is often genetic or driven by the environment. It may also be connected to stressful life event and can worsen if that trauma is untreated.

The hoarding signs

  1. Compulsive buying and acquisition of free items, leading to accumulation.
  2. Experiencing anxiety while attempting to discard possessions because of the perception that everything is valuable and might be needed in the future.
  3. Congested living space and embarrassment associated with the clutter.

While level 1 hoarders can still enjoy the view from their window and can freely walk through their doors, level 5 involves extreme clutter (can be dangerous for health).

Living with a hoarder

Many people live with a hoarder for years without mentioning it or they have only recently realised the fact that their partner is a hoarder. What should they do?

  • Respect boundaries. Work together to keep these boundaries ensuring spaces need to be clutter-free.
  • Address the hoarding problem together. Work out the common goals for sharing the space.
  • Give them space while they clean.
  • Know the limits. Some will have leave the space where someone is hoarding.
  • Talking therapy with the person who is hoarding.

Many people collect items such as books or stamps, and this is not considered a problem. The difference is that a collection is usually well ordered and accessible. A hoard is highly disorganised, takes up a lot of room, lacks money value and is largely inaccessible. 

If you know a hoarder, reassure them that nobody is going to throw everything away. Encourage them to have a chat with the GP about their hoarding. There is often local support available to empower them to begin the process of decluttering. It may need a referral to a local community mental health team, including therapists’ familiar with the issues from hoarding.

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Visit at or call the UK call centre 0333 323 0098 for more information.



Date: 28 November 2022 by Max Robinson