How OCD Can Fuel Hoarding? 3 Ways to Overcome it

Do you frequently engage in hoarding behaviour? Do you find it challenging to let go of goods even when they are no longer needed due to your obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)? It’s not just you. In fact, research demonstrates that OCD can encourage hoarding tendencies and make it difficult to escape the cycle. Don’t give up hope just yet, though! This post will discuss three practical strategies for overcoming compulsive hoarding and taking back your space. So, if you’re prepared to take charge of your life and home for good, keep reading!


  • Several facets of a person’s life, including their physical health, interpersonal relationships, and emotional wellbeing, can be negatively impacted by compulsive hoarding.
  • Obsessive hoarding is a serious problem that many individuals experience and is frequently exacerbated by OCD.
  • The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) classifies hoarding disorder as a distinct diagnosis from OCD, while it can be a subtype of OCD.
  • Therapists often take a sympathetic and non-judgmental stance while working with people who have compulsive hoarding brought on by OCD.


Compulsive Hoarding: All about it

A person suffering from compulsive hoarding has a strong drive to collect things and keep them, frequently to the point where their homes become unlivable and dangerous.

Several facets of a person’s life, including their physical health, interpersonal relationships, and emotional wellbeing, can be negatively impacted by compulsive hoarding. Compulsive hoarding frequently exhibits the following features:

  • Having trouble throwing things away, regardless of their worth or utility
  • Having a strong emotional connection to objects and becoming upset when they are taken away or disposed
  • Accumulating things excessively, frequently to the point that they hinder performance
  • Substantial distress or impairment brought on by hoarding behaviours

A person with compulsive hoarding might usually have a house that is so overrun with goods that they are unable to use certain rooms or portions of the house, or they might struggle to move around because of the stacks of items on the floor. Also, they could find it difficult to practise good cleanliness, which might cause health issues.

Hoarding compulsively is a dangerous condition that calls for medical attention. It’s crucial to get support from a mental health professional if you or someone you love is battling with hoarding.

Why is Compulsive hoarding an issue?

Due to the serious effects it can have on a person’s mental and physical health, as well as their social and occupational functioning, compulsive hoarding can be a serious problem. Here are some examples of how excessive hoarding can be detrimental:

  • Hoarded objects can lead to hazardous living conditions which can attract pests and promote the formation of mould and mildew. Respiratory troubles and other health concerns might result from these disorders. Also, having too much clutter might make it harder to keep your home clean, which raises the possibility of being sick or hurt.
  • Hoarding can occasionally result in legal problems, such as breaking zoning or building requirements. The burden of the disease is increased by the time and money required to handle these legal issues.

Read Blog: From Hoarding to Healing: How to Overcome Hoarding?

Difference between hoarding, collecting, cluttering, hoarding disorder, and compulsive hoarding

These terms are often used interchangeably but are way too different. The key differences are:

HoardingCollecting things and retaining them, regardless of cost or utility.Accumulating outdated publications such as magazines, newspapers, and other paper goods that are no longer required for any reason.
CollectingAcquiring and preserving things that one finds valuable or interesting.Hobbies like collecting stamps, coins, or miniatures can be fun and rewarding.
ClutteringAssembling an excessive amount of things that are in the way of regular life.When things aren’t put away but are instead left lying around, the house gets messy and disorderly.
Hoarding DisorderContinuous difficulty getting rid of or parting with belongings, regardless of their true value, is a sign of a mental health disorder.Hoarding disorder can cause a person to feel compelled to keep trash, old food, and even unopened mail.
Compulsive HoardingA severe kind of hoarding disease that interferes with daily life and has significant symptoms.A habitual hoarder could have an overwhelming amount of clutter that blocks pathways and overflows rooms.
Difference between hoarding, collecting, cluttering, hoarding disorder, and compulsive hoarding

There are various connections between hoarding and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Here are some crucial details:

  • Both OCD and hoarding involve uncontrollable obsessive thoughts or urges: Obsessions are undesirable and bothersome ideas, images, or desires that OCD sufferers attempt to suppress by engaging in repetitive actions or thoughts (compulsions). Due to a perceived need to keep items or a fear of losing them, people with hoarding disorder have a difficult time parting with them, regardless of their actual value.
  • The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) classifies hoarding disorder as a distinct diagnosis from OCD, while it can be a subtype of OCD.
  • Hoarding, however, can also be regarded as a subtype of OCD because it exhibits many of the same symptoms as OCD, including intrusive thoughts, compulsive actions, and reduced functioning.
  • Research have indicated that between 20 and 30 percent of patients with hoarding problem also have OCD, and the opposite is true. This shows that the underlying brain mechanisms or genetic variables affecting both illnesses may be somewhat similar.
  • Individuals with OCD and hoarding both express significant levels of worry and distress, suggesting that hoarding may be a coping mechanism for anxiety. Some people may use hoarding as a coping mechanism for anxiety because it gives them a sense of safety or comfort.
  • This coping mechanism, nevertheless, has the potential to become maladaptive over time, resulting in increased clutter and decreased functionality.
  • Hoarding and OCD can both be treated similarly: Cognitive-behavioral treatment (CBT), which entails recognising and combating unfavourable ideas, creating coping mechanisms, and gradually exposing oneself to anxiety-inducing circumstances, can be used to treat both OCD and hoarding problem. Both illnesses’ symptoms can be effectively treated with medication.
  • Ultimately, even though OCD and hoarding disorder are two separate illnesses, they have a lot in common and can co-occur in some people. For the purpose of creating efficient treatments and enhancing the outcomes for individuals impacted, it is critical to comprehend the relationship between various illnesses.

Read Blog: Effective Self-Help Tips to Manage Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

According to research, hoarding symptoms affect 20% of people with OCD, and hoarding behaviour is frequently linked to this disorder. Here are some further data regarding OCD and hoarding:

  • An estimated 2–6% of people suffer from hoarding disorder out of which around 1% to 2% of people also have OCD.
  • Hoarding disorder and OCD are more common in women than in men.
  • While OCD often starts in adolescent or early adulthood, hoarding disorder typically manifests in the early 20s.
  • Hoarding and OCD symptoms increase the risk of developing other mental health issues like depression and anxiety disorders.
  • A multidisciplinary approach is necessary for hoarding disorder and OCD treatment, involving counselling, medication, and practical solutions like organizing and decluttering training.

It is crucial to keep in mind that these figures could change based on the study and demographic being looked at, and getting expert assistance is always advised for an appropriate diagnosis and course of treatment.

Read Blog: The Vicious Cycle of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD): Types of OCD and Their Symptoms

Treatment options for treating OCD induced compulsive hoarding

There are numerous OCD-related treatments for compulsive hoarding, including:

  • CBT: Cognitive behavioural therapy is a popular and efficient treatment for OCD and hoarding. It entails spotting and addressing unproductive cognitive habits. CBT can assist people in overcoming their anxiety and forming new, better behaviours.

Read Blog: What is CBT- An Introduction to a Revolutionary Therapy with A Case Example

  • Medication: Certain drugs, like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), can help lessen the signs and symptoms of hoarding and OCD.
  • Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP): ERP is a form of cognitive behavioural therapy that teaches patients to control their impulse to hoard by gradually exposing them to the items they fear or feel compelled to save. Using ERP, people can improve their anxiety management and lessen their hoarding tendencies.
  • MBCT: Cognitive therapy with mindfulness components is known as mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, or MBCT. With increased awareness of one’s thoughts and feelings, MBCT can assist people in better managing their compulsive hoarding tendencies.
  • Self-help techniques: Individuals can utilise a number of self-help techniques to control their hoarding tendencies, such as establishing reasonable goals, organising their living space, and enlisting the assistance of family and friends.

It is crucial to remember that a combination of these methods may be necessary for effective treatment of compulsive hoarding, and that finding the best course of action for a specific patient may take some time. A mental health expert should be consulted if you are having OCD or hoarding issues.

Case study on Compulsive hoarding

Tanya, a 45-year-old single lady, resides by herself in a modest flat in the city. She has battled compulsive hoarding for ten years. Old clothes, books, newspapers, empty bottles, and trash are all over her apartment. There are numerous objects and mounds of clothing littering her bedroom. Her bathroom and kitchen are also cluttered, making it difficult to even take a shower or make meals.

Tanya struggles with getting rid of things, no matter how worn out or broken they are. Each object has a special emotional meaning for her, and she feels that getting rid of them would be a waste. She worries that she will eventually need them and gets a sense of security from having them close by.

Tanya’s compulsion to hoard has negatively affected her quality of life. She finds it difficult to perform simple duties like cleaning, cooking, and even leaving her flat because of the clutter’s humiliation. She avoids asking people over and feels embarrassed about her living situation, which has a negative impact on her social life.

Tanya sought mental health treatment, and a compulsive hoarding issue was identified. To treat her anxiety and sadness, she underwent cognitive behavioural therapy and received medication. Tanya was able to comprehend the underlying causes of her hoarding habit and create new coping mechanisms to deal with her anxieties and emotions with the help of counselling and medicines.

She discovered how to let go of things she didn’t need and created rules for what she could and couldn’t keep in her home. Tanya’s living situation gradually became better, and she was able to bring friends and relatives around without feeling self-conscious. She also claimed to feel more self-assured and in charge of her life. Tanya’s experience emphasises the difficulties of compulsive hoarding and the significance of getting expert assistance to treat this condition.

Read Blog: Anxiety and Hoarding: 4 Effective Tips to Break Free!

1. How do therapist work with those who have OCD induced compulsive hoarding?

Therapists often take a sympathetic and non-judgmental stance while working with people who have compulsive hoarding brought on by OCD. They work to establish a secure and encouraging environment for the client to talk about their issues because they are aware that the person may feel ashamed and embarrassed about their hoarding practises.

To help clients understand the underlying causes of their hoarding behaviours, such as past traumas or anxiety problems, therapists may work with them. They might also assist the person in recognising and confronting their faulty thought patterns, which can result in compulsive hoarding.

Moreover, therapists might employ behavioural techniques like ERP, which includes gradually exposing the client to circumstances that set off their hoarding behaviours while also teaching them more effective coping methods. Also, they could assist the client in learning useful techniques for keeping a clutter-free home and arranging their possessions.

In general, therapists work to assist the patient gain self-assurance, enhance their quality of life, and establish a more wholesome and long-lasting relationship with their things.

2. Are hoarders aware of their actions?

Hoarders typically are conscious of their behaviour yet frequently find it difficult to curb or quit it. Even though the things they hoard have little use in daily life, they could have a deep emotional attachment to them. Also, some hoarders may feel guilty, ashamed, or embarrassed about their behaviour, which can make it challenging for them to ask for assistance or support.

It’s critical to remember that hoarding is a complicated condition that manifests differently in each individual. Some hoarders may be completely cognizant of their conduct, but others may not be aware of the severity of the issue or how it affects their everyday lives. Finally, anyone battling with hoarding behavior is advised to get help from a mental health expert.

3. Are there levels or degrees of compulsive hoarding?

Certainly, there are 5 levels of compulsive hoarding and 3 different degrees of compulsive hoarding, from mild to severe. The severity and length of the hoarding activity, the amount of clutter, and the effects of hoarding on everyday life and interpersonal relationships can all affect the degree of hoarding.

Following are several compulsive hoarding degrees:

  • Mild hoarding: At this stage, the person struggles to let go of goods but is still able to keep their home secure and functional.
  • Moderate Hoarding: Hoarding that is considered to be moderate occurs when a person’s home becomes so cluttered that it is less safe and useful. The person might have trouble locating and using belongings, and there might not be easy access to certain areas or equipment.
  • Serious hoarding: At this stage, the person’s home is so cluttered that it poses a risk to their health and safety. Access to certain rooms or appliances may be restricted, and the person may be at risk of stumbling over or getting hurt by clutter-related objects.

It’s critical to remember that compulsive hoarding is a complicated condition that can impact people in different ways, and that the severity of hoarding can vary depending on the situation. The first step in handling compulsive hoarding, whether for yourself or someone you know, can be to seek professional assistance.

3 Effective self-help Tips for overcoming OCD induced hoarding behaviour

1. Make a list of your possessions:

Make a list of everything you have and arrange it into categories, such as clothing, books, or kitchenware. You’ll be able to see everything you have in detail and spot anything you don’t use or need. After that, you can get rid of, sell, or give these things to make room in your house.

Some benefits of this method are:

  • Improved structure and clarity
  • Decreased hoarding and clutter
  • Enhanced capacity for making decisions
  • Less anxiety and stress

Start with a single category, like clothing, and go through each item one at a time to determine if you want to keep, donate, or toss it.

2. Maintain your attention on the here and now:

OCD-induced hoarding is frequently associated with concerns about the future and a fear of losing key possessions. Keeping your attention in the here and now can help you feel more in control and less anxious.

The advantages of this tactic include:

  • Reduces tension and fear
  • Encourages self-awareness and mindfulness
  • Enhances one’s sense of control
  • Suitable actions

What tips can you use?

  • Use mindfulness practises, such as paying attention to your breath or senses.
  • Maintain a thankfulness notebook to keep your attention on what you have right now.
    Accept your existing situation and the fact that change takes time by practising acceptance

Example: Instead than thinking about what might happen in the future if you let go of some objects when organising your home, put your attention on the here and now.

3. Adopt a daily schedule:

Maintaining a routine might help you feel in control and organised. Setting out particular periods for organising, sorting, and cleaning your home is one way to do this.

The advantages of this tactic include:

  • Aids in keeping one from feeling overtaken by the work of decluttering
  • Promotes accountability and consistency and gives a sense of structure and order

Suitable actions

  • Create a list of things to do every day.
  • Make a schedule that includes these activities.
  • Set reminders to help you stay on schedule.

Using a wardrobe or kitchen drawer as an example, you could establish a morning ritual of decluttering that part of your home for 30 minutes each day.


In conclusion, obsessive hoarding is a serious problem that many individuals experience and is frequently exacerbated by OCD. There are ways to stop this tendency, though, and regain control over your life. The three self-help techniques covered in this article can help people with compulsive hoarding issues. It’s crucial to keep in mind that eliminating hoarding behaviour is a process that takes time and dedication, but the advantages of living a life free from clutter and structured are worthwhile. Keep in mind that you are not travelling alone. You may overcome OCD-caused hoarding and live a better, happier life with the appropriate resources and attitude.

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