Hoarding vs OCD: What’s the Difference?

Hoarding has been linked to a variety of mental illnesses. But you shouldn’t confuse one for the other

Hoarding and OCD have some symptoms in common. But they are not the same thing.

Although most hoarders do suffer from an underlying mental health issue, you should resist the temptation to lump them together into a single category.

It is important to be able to tell one from the other if you are going to come up with an effective solution to help someone recover.

With any mental health issue, you are going to need to handle things with care. 

Having some background knowledge on the two disorders will help you create a plan of action and get proper treatment where necessary.

What Is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?

Someone who has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) has intrusive thoughts that will drive them to repeat a certain pattern or behavior. They will suffer from overpowering intrusive thoughts, or obsessions.

These obsessions are persistent and distressing. They will compel the person with OCD to take actions in an attempt to soothe the overwhelming ideations. 

Common behaviors of someone with OCD are:

  • Repeated bathing or handwashing
  • Counting things over and over
  • Doing something a specific amount of times
  • Collecting or hoarding things of no personal or practical value


One of the thoughts that fuel these behaviors is a deep fear of not being in control. By clinging to their patterns and rituals, a person with OCD may be attempting to soothe that fear. 

You will notice that collecting and hoarding are one of the traits that someone with OCD can have. But that does not mean that all people with OCD are hoarders, or that all hoarders have OCD.

To see why, keep reading.

What is Hoarding Disorder?

Hoarding is a complex mental health issue that has many underlying causes. But, the main characteristic of a hoarding disorder is the uncontrollable urge to collect

Many hoarders also suffer from disposophobia – intense distress caused by the thought of throwing something away. 

A hoarding disorder differs from merely struggling with some clutter in that it impacts every aspect of the person’s life. They may even completely isolate themselves from others to avoid having to address the problem altogether.

Hoarding has been linked to the following mental illnesses:

  • Anxiety and Depression
  • ADHD
  • PTSD
  • OCD


It is important to note that a hoarder could be suffering from any number of, or a combination of, the above mentioned illnesses. OCD is simply one of the many potential underlying causes of hoarding. 

Understanding which of these illnesses is impacting your loved one will help you develop the right plan for compassionate care. 

What Are the Criteria for OCD?

The below symptoms must be present in order to diagnose someone with OCD:

  • Strong, recurring obsessions that are either disturbing or unwanted
  • Giving into certain impulses in an attempt to stop or control the intrusive thoughts
  • Repeated behaviors that are fueled by an unrealistic fear 
  • There is no other explanation for the behavior, such as addiction or dysmorphia 


These are just some of the symptoms that someone with OCD experiences. As with any mental health issue, be careful not to diagnose someone on your own.

While this information may be used to help guide your process, you should always seek the advice of a mental health professional before making any decisions.

What Are the Criteria for Hoarding?

These are the requirements for diagnosing someone with a hoarding disorder:

  • An intense need to collect that results in an unmanageable amount of clutter
  • Extreme distress towards discarding things even when they’re useless or broken
  • Needing to keep belongings because of an irrational fear of not having them
  • No other medical explanation is available, such as a brain injury or schizophrenia

Hoarding has its own distinct characteristics. It is important to be able to differentiate its symptoms from other mental illnesses.

However, never attempt to diagnose or treat any mental health condition by yourself.

If you suspect your loved one is struggling with hoarding, OCD, or any other serious illness, seek professional help immediately.


Difference between hoarding and OCD

One of the reasons that hoarding has been linked to OCD is because they have some things in common. Both drive someone to perform compulsive behavior as a reaction to an obsession or fear. 

But, these illnesses are not mutually exclusive.

The difference is that someone with OCD has some kind of recurring thought that creates the urge to perform a certain task.

On the other hand, a hoarder is not necessarily obsessed with what they are collecting. But, they have a deep fear of letting things go.

How Can OCD and Hoarding Be Treated?

Both hoarding and OCD can be managed under the care of a qualified professional. 

Never attempt to intervene on your own. Without proper guidance, you run the risk of making things worse. 

Treatment for these issues can be just as complex as the disorders themselves. But, with the right plan and a good support system it is possible to recover. 

We always recommend getting professional help.

A good therapist will be able to target the thoughts and behaviors that need work in an unbiased and methodical way. 

But outside of therapy, you will also need to be present to help your loved one as they develop the skills they need to lead happier, healthier lives. 

In the case of hoarders, they will also need your help cleaning up.

Recovering from hoarding can take a lot of time. But with practice and consistency, it is possible to overcome the challenges your loved one is facing. 


Can OCD Lead to Hoarding?

Yes. OCD can lead to hoarding if the sufferer is driven to compulsively collect things as a means of dispelling their intrusive thoughts. 

Although hoarding and OCD are separate issues, they can work together in this way.

If a person with OCD is compelled to keep certain things in an attempt to establish a sense of control, their possessions can certainly pile up to dangerous levels.

When paired with the extreme disposophobia of a hoarding disorder, this can create an incredibly complex issue. 

When To Call the Professionals

Before you try to intervene, consider getting help from a professional. Taking on such a serious issue requires a delicate touch.

Going into a situation like this unprepared can lead to devastating consequences – even if you have the best intentions.

Getting help from a mental heal professional will help with psychological concerns.

But if you’re dealing with hoarding, then you may want to consider getting a professional cleanup crew as well. 

Helping a hoarder clean is not the same as tidying up a messy home.

Oftentimes there is way too much stuff for only one or two people to take on, and if you don’t know what you’re getting into it can be easy to get overwhelmed and give up.

Plus, some hoarder homes are too dangerous to enter.

Mold, pest infestations, and structural damage are just some of the perils of cleaning a hoarder’s home.

It’s best to work with someone who really knows what they’re doing.

Reclaim Your Life From Hoarding

Hoarders911 has everything you need to help a hoarder declutter and get back on track to a healthier lifestyle. 

With nearly 3 decades of experience, we have developed a solution for every problem you might encounter. Our team is specifically trained to approach every cleanup with patience and understanding. 

Combining a good therapy routine with the help of a competent hoarding cleaning service is the best way to get your loved one the care that they need.

You need to focus on supporting your loved one through this difficult time. Let us handle the rest.

Call now for help planning your next steps.

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