I have had quite a few clients that have been told they are “hoarders” (by experts and non-experts alike). Some diagnosed and some not diagnosed. And many clients have self-diagnosed themselves as “hoarders” also.

I have also had professionals (support coordinators, social workers etc) say “This person is a hoarder”.

However, there are a LOT of conditions, neuro-diversities and behaviours that can cause (or masquerade as) hoarding and challenging domestic environments.

Autism can cause executive dysfunction that results in overwhelm and avoidance, which can end up looking like hoarding to the uninitiated.

ADHD can do the same. It can also cause impulsive buying which can then also look, on appearances, like hoarding.

Autism can result in collecting behaviours in special interests, and very strong attachment. This can be mistaken for hoarding disorder.

Depression can cause decision-making anxiety, which means that things can’t be decided-upon get left unresolved, which can result in unclean living conditions and unfinished tasks, which also can be mistaken for hoarding.Depression can also cause low motivation, which results in unfinished tasks, and sometimes self-soothing actions like buying and collecting, which can build up clutter and sometimes unclean spaces.Bi-polar can have similar effects – during mania episodes, there could be impulsive purchasing. During depressive episodes, there could be a lack of motivation, overwhelm and difficulty starting and finishing tasks.

OCD can mean that regular household tasks become gargantuan and unmanageable due to the complex rituals that need to be undertaken. Washing the dishes could take 5 hours. Who’d want to do the dishes if it took that long?

Creativity can cause a high interest in numerous activities. Couple that with ADHD and you can end up with high level of clutter and an inability to put it into order.

Childhood trauma (or any trauma really) can cause attachment issues and self-soothing activities that can cause high clutter levels. Also for some people, there was no role model to learn helpful space and stuff management behaviours.

I could go on, but my point is – hoarding behaviours and “unclean” living environments can come from many possible sources.

Be careful not to saddle someone with a label that has stigma attached to it (hopefully that will go away but for now, it’s here) when it could simply be a behaviour that has its sources in a place other than hoarding disorder.

Also, assuming it’s hoarding disorder can mean that potential treatments can be missed out on.

And if you have hoarding behaviours, go easy on yourself – you are a whole person who cannot be reduced to one behaviour. You’re awesome x

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