Helping A Loved One With Hoarding - What Not To Do


According to the American Psychiatric Association, 2 to 6 percent of the population struggles with Hoarding Disorder. These individuals have chronic difficulty throwing out or giving out personal belongings resulting from a perceived need to hold onto these items. These items may or may not have any real value or purpose. Hoarding is exceptionally hazardous to the victim's health; it is common for hoarders to live in dangerous environments, be malnourished, and have poor personal hygiene.

Hoarders experience debilitating stress at the prospect of parting ways with their possessions. It comes with many psychological stressors for the hoarder and their loved ones wanting to help.

It's crucial you do not:

  • Take a hoarder's belongings from their home without their permission. To a non-hoarder, it may seem like if they "clean up," their lives would be much better. However, the overwhelming emotional discomfort brought on by the thought of losing valuable or essential possessions is not addressed by just getting rid of them. Not only is the hoarder likely to become upset towards you, but they'll also probably take refuge in their old behaviors. As a result, the likelihood of them seeking professional help can significantly dwindle.
  • Expect the process of cleanup or healing to occur overnight. For someone struggling with hoarding, it requires a significant amount of time for their dwelling to become a hazardous environment. However, it can take just as much time to improve the environment and the triggering behaviors.
  • Be an enabler of a loved one with a Hoarding Disorder. Not only is taking their items without their consent counterproductive, but it's also just as harmful when you worsen their clutter by buying or giving them stuff or indulging them on shopping sprees. Remember, there are other methods of expressing your love by not enabling the hoarding behavior and enjoying different activities unrelated to consumption.
  • Clean up after the hoarder. Offering to clean up after your loved one who's hoarding may seem helpful, but it may be a distraction. Moreover, doing this may prevent them from acknowledging and facing the profoundly personal issues driving them to hoard in the first place.
  • Expect perfection. A loved one with Hoarding Disorder will likely experience setbacks, even after recovering with specialized treatment. But, like anyone struggling with an eating disorder, impulse shopping, substance abuse, or gambling, they are still human beings worthy of love and support regardless of their flaws.

Self-Assessment For Hoarding Disorder

Questions that measure the prevalence of hoarding tendencies include:

  • Do you need help to part ways with your personal belongings (through discarding, selling, recycling, or donating?)
  • Due to the clutter or quantity of your possessions, how much difficulty do you have utilizing the rooms and space in your home?
  • To what extent is your daily functioning hindered by your saving, hoarding, clutter, and acquisition?
  • To what degree do these symptoms interfere with work, school, or your social and family life?
  • How distressing are these symptoms to your overall well-being?