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How to Understand Hoarding Syndrome

It's difficult to identify hoarding syndrome as a distinct mental health problem, but there are clear patterns to be aware of when trying to help a loved one who suffers from the syndrome.


  • Step 1: Perceive the social isolation of a hoarder as a way to find comfort in their loneliness through objects.
  • Step 2: Accept that hoarders are typically perfectionists whose collecting may come from indecision. Choosing whether to keep or discard things ends up causing such distress they avoid possibly making the wrong move by keeping everything.
  • FACT: As recently as 2010, the medical profession identified some 2 million Americans as suffering from a hoarding problem.
  • TIP: Alert the authorities if neighbors or friends have begun hoarding animals.
  • Step 3: Understand that some people feel compelled to hold on to newspapers, for instance, in case someone might need them. Hoarders, however, rarely lend anything out and are often uncomfortable letting others touch their property.
  • TIP: Collecting baseball cards or tea cups for fun or profit has a purpose, which distinguishes the act from saving useless items.
  • Step 4: If someone has a family history of hoarding, expect them to have a higher potential for inheriting the fixation.
  • Step 5: A loved one may begin hoarding things after a traumatic event, such as a death, divorce, or fire. If they have had trouble coping and begin to collect things, offer help -- they may be shutting themselves off.
  • Step 6: Note someone collecting and saving seemingly meaningless objects, as early as adolescence, and you may be witnessing the beginnings of a hoarder. Though they tend to be middle aged, people with the condition may begin hoarding much sooner.

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