Hoarding is the excessive collection and storing of items, often in a chaotic manner, to the point where their living space is not able to be used for its intended purpose.
Hoarding is considered a significant problem if:
- the amount of clutter interferes with everyday living – for example, the person is unable to use their kitchen or bathroom and cannot access rooms
- the clutter is causing significant distress or negatively affecting the quality of life of the person or their family
A person with a hoarding disorder may have significant difficulty in discarding or parting with possessions. They may experience distress at the thought of getting rid of items or simply be unable, either physically or through other health-related factors, to get rid of things despite acknowledging that changes need to be made. The items can be of little or no financial value.
Hoarding is considered a standalone mental health disorder, however, it can also be a symptom of other medical disorders. It is not a lifestyle choice and hoarding must always be treated as a sign of vulnerability.
There are typically three types of hoarding:
- Compulsive hoarding – this could consist of one type of object or collection of a mixture of objects, such as old clothes, newspapers, food, containers, human waste or papers. This will often manifest from an emotional attachment to inanimate items creating conflict in disposal.
- Bibliomania – books and written information, such as newspapers, magazines and articles, as well as DVDs and videos. It can also include ‘data hoarding’, which is the excessive storage and reluctance to delete electronic material which is no longer of use – such as computers, electronic storage devices, copies of emails, and other information in an electronic format.
- Animal hoarding – this is often accompanied with the inability to provide minimal standards of care. The person may be unable to recognise that the animals are at risk. The homes of animal hoarders are often eventually destroyed by the accumulation of animal faeces and infestation by pests. More information about animal hoarding.