The Signs of Hoarding Disorder: Knowing When and How to Intervene


People who have loved ones suffering from hoarding disorder often advise that prevention is key to easier and faster recovery. People with a disorder rarely become self-aware of their erratic behavior. That means it’s up to the people around them to catch these behaviors and get them the help they need. When negative habits are allowed to fester for a long time, they’ll be much harder to treat. If you notice any sudden changes in your friend or family member’s demeanor or behavior, it could be an early sign of something more serious, so it’s important to pay attention.

Symptoms of hoarding disorder

If you fear that your loved one may be suffering from, or is in the early stages of hoarding disorder, here is a checklist of symptoms you can use to confirm your suspicion.

  • Excessive shopping for items. One of the earliest indicators of hoarding disorder is when a person purchases items they often don’t need and have no space for. This isn’t quite the same as them developing an interest in collecting. Collectors often purchase specific items like rare coins, stamps, or merchandise from a celebrity. Meanwhile, hoarders will accumulate just about anything. You may see them accumulating food that goes bad before they can even eat it or going into debt to purchase things that aren’t urgent or useful.
  • Extreme clutter build-up, to the point of disarray. This is one of the ways you can differentiate collecting from hoarding. Collectors often organize their items and display them in a dedicated space, while hoarders just let things pile up to the point that certain furniture, passageways, and rooms become unusable.
  • Overreaction at the suggestion of throwing items away. When you notice a build-up of items, gauge their reaction to the suggestion of disposing of some items or decluttering. If they express displeasure or even anger, it might be a sign that they’re developing an unhealthy attachment to these items.

Stepping in

Once you notice any of the symptoms listed above, it’s best to intervene as soon as possible. Be calm and rational when you confront them, as being too aggressive will only make them feel like they’re being cornered. Don’t let it get to the point that your loved one is forced to live in disgusting and unsanitary conditions due to this disorder. When you notice things getting out of hand, sit them down, and have an honest yet gentle discussion about their concerning behavior. Sign them up for therapy or hire hoarder cleaning services to help jump start their recovery.

According to psychiatrists, one of the keys to a patient’s recovery is having a stable support system. You can be that person for your loved ones by simply being there, offering help whenever they’re struggling and on the verge of relapsing. Be patient and understanding as recovery is an uphill battle. Even if you successfully intervene early, it still won’t be easy to work through the trauma that triggered the disorder in the first place.


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