Common Characteristics of Compulsive Hoarding

Hoarding disorder is a serious mental illness that drives the person suffering to compulsively collect. Knowing the symptoms is the first step towards identifying a problem and creating a plan to help your loved one recover.


Compulsive hoarding occurs in individuals who experience a chronic obsession with keeping and acquiring their personal items, even at the expense of their own health. It is a mental illness that is often likened to OCD, and can be a result of trauma, depression, or anxiety.

Is hoarding different from other kinds of OCD?

OCD is classified as an anxiety disorder that comes with a variety of symptoms all its own. Hoarding, on the other hand, is generally considered to be a symptom of mental health issues like OCD, anxiety, PTSD, or depression. While hoarding and OCD do have some things in common, the main difference is that hoarding disorder is triggered specifically by collecting and discarding objects, and it usually causes interpersonal distress within the family of the person affected. 

Common Characteristics of Compulsive Hoarding 

Hoarders can be extremely self-isolating as a means of protecting their collection from being disturbed by onlookers. Many also feel intense shame towards the condition of their homes and their inability to get organized. The most common characteristic that hoarders tend to share is disposophobia – the extreme distress that follows when tasked to throw something away. Because hoarding develops over a long period of time, many will avidly decline help when offered because they have become comfortable living amongst the clutter and disarray, and may not even be able to identify a problem at all.

Treatment for Compulsive Hoarding

Helping someone recover from a hoarding disorder takes time, and usually requires professional assistance. Treatment usually involves an ongoing process of helping people learn the problem-solving and prioritizing skills they need to work through their compulsions on their own. Simply barging in and throwing things away in order to start a clean slate won’t help, and the hoarder is likely to simply replace their collection. Since the issue developed overtime, it will also take time and patience to undo it. 


Other types of hoarding disorder

No two hoarders are alike. There are as many types of hoarding disorder as there are things to collect.

  • Compulsive Collectors. This type of hoarder may not have any rhyme or reason to their collection, and simply collects any and anything they can get their hands on.
  • Compulsive Shoppers. Anyone with an extreme addiction to shopping might have a hoarding issue, especially those who make unnecessary purchases and rack up unmanageable debt.
  • Food Hoarders. No one likes wasting food, but food hoarders will hold onto food items well past their expiration date. This could be out of fear of starvation, but the sanitary issues can also be dangerous.
  • Information Hoarders. Not being able to throw away a receipt or an outdated calendar out of fear that the information will not be available when its needed is a good sign of a hoarding problem.
  • Animal Hoarders. Sadly, many hoarders take on more pets than they can reasonably care for. While they may have good intentions, the reality can be devastating.

Call for professional help

Contacting a professional is the best thing you can do to help your loved one get their life back on track. Hoarders911 provides compassionate hoarding cleaning services that can be custom tailored to your specific situation. There is nothing we haven’t seen, and we are always ready to provide a solution.


It’s important to know exactly what you’re dealing with when trying to help a hoarder. Symptoms may vary, but they should never be confused for anything else. Getting in touch with a professional can help you determine exactly what’s going on and what you can do to help.

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