Hoarder woman on the phone trying to find an answer to the question is hoarding a mental illness

Is Hoarding a Mental Illness?

Many people hang on to treasures and memorabilia or have collections of valuable or interesting items. Generally, this is no cause for concern. However, some individuals obsessively collect things to the point where their homes become severely cluttered, which may compromise health and safety. Is hoarding a mental illness? The answer to that question is complicated, but mental health treatment may significantly benefit those with this condition. 

Promises Behavioral Health specializes in providing quality care and support for individuals who struggle with hoarding. The clinicians in our OCD treatment center understand that hoarding disorder can be overwhelming; we are committed to helping people recover and live a better quality of life. Reach us at 844.875.5609 to start treatment and begin the journey toward wellness. 

What Is Hoarding?

The characteristic feature of hoarding is the persistent difficulty of discarding or parting with possessions, regardless of their value. People who hoard experience intense anxiety when discarding items and often struggle to organize things in their living space. It can cause significant distress and impair daily functioning due to the amount of clutter that accumulates. 

Those with hoarding disorder may also have difficulty categorizing or sorting possessions. Although they feel emotionally attached to these items, they are often embarrassed by their behavior and ashamed of built-up clutter. 

Is Hoarding a Mental Illness?

Hoarding is a complicated condition, and whether or not it is a mental illness is still debatable. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) recognizes it as an obsessive-compulsive disorder. At the same time, some experts believe hoarding is an addiction, impulse control disorder, or personality trait.

Is hoarding a mental illness? The answer remains unclear. Since it does cause significant distress and impairs functioning in numerous ways, seeking behavioral healthcare may significantly improve the lives of individuals struggling with the disorder.

Hoarding Disorder Symptoms

When it comes to hoarding disorder symptoms, they typically involve keeping large amounts of objects that have no value in an untidy and cluttered environment. This clutter often accumulates to the point where it disrupts everyday activities and prevents basic tasks from being carried out, such as taking a shower or using kitchen appliances. Other symptoms include:

  • Difficulty discarding items, even those that have no value or use 
  • Extreme indecisiveness about which things to keep and discard
  • Avoiding inviting guests over due to the state of the home
  • Feeling anxious when others attempt to clean or organize the living space

Hoarders may make excuses for why they cannot discard anything despite having an overwhelming amount of possessions. They can even become defensive or angry if someone attempts to convince them that they need help cleaning up their living space.

Treatment for Hoarding

Depending on the individual and severity of symptoms, treatment options for hoarding disorder can vary greatly. However, a general care plan usually consists of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and medications.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

CBT is one of the most effective treatments for hoarding disorder as it helps individuals identify, challenge, and replace negative thought patterns fueling their behavior. During sessions, a therapist may:

  • Work with clients to set goals for organizing their space
  • Practice discarding items that are no longer necessary or useful
  • Create weekly or monthly organizational plans

The therapist may also help the individual recognize environmental triggers that lead to acquisition behaviors or difficulty discarding items.

Dialectical-Behavior Therapy

DBT can also help treat hoarding disorder by assisting patients in regulating intense emotions and increasing problem-solving skills when dealing with clutter. This therapy focuses on understanding how emotions affect decisions related to possessions and learning how to tolerate distress associated with discarding items. 


Certain medications may treat underlying mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety, which often accompany hoarding disorder. For example, serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), antipsychotics, and antianxiety medications are all commonly used in conjunction with other forms of treatment for this condition.

Help Is Here at Promises

If you or someone you know has an issue with hoarding, turn to Promises Behavioral Health. Our expert team of mental health professionals guides and supports those dealing with compulsive hoarding behavior. We understand the immense distress it can cause and are committed to helping individuals live happier, more fulfilling lives.

At Promoses, we use evidence-based therapies to help those suffering from hoarding develop healthy habits. The counselors in our OCD treatment center address the underlying causes of hoarding behavior and provide meaningful strategies for overcoming it. Contact us at 844.875.5609 today to take your first step towards healing and a healthier tomorrow.

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