Why do people hoard? Is it mental illness? New C5 doc Hoarder Homes

A new Channel 5 documentary series introduces viewers to people whose lives have been affected by hoarding – but why do people hoard?

Is it a mental illness and can it be cured?

Here’s everything you need to know about Hoarder and why they do it, plus an introduction to the new six-part series on C5.


Bubbles on her living room bed surrounded by her things in Hoarder Homes, but why are people hoarding? (Credit: Channel 5)

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What is a hoarder?

People with hoarding disorders excessively store items that others may consider worthless.

A hoarder stores the excess items in a messy way, which usually leads to a mess.

The items may be of little or no monetary value.

The clutter disrupts the person’s ability to use their living or work space.

Stacked items make cleaning a house difficult and often lead to blemishes.

Hoarding is not the same as collecting.

Potential consequences of major hoarding include health and safety concerns such as the risk of fire, tripping hazards, and health code violations.

Not to mention family conflicts, isolation and loneliness.

Why do people hoard?

Hoarders “save” items either for the future or because of sentimental value.

Some may also feel more secure when surrounded by the things they are saving and have a hard time getting rid of possessions.

Experts still don’t fully understand why someone starts hoarding.

It can be a symptom of another condition.

For example, someone with mobility issues may not be physically able to clean up the clutter.

Or people with learning difficulties or dementia may not be able to categorize and dispose of items.

Others may have trouble coping with a stressful life event like the death of a loved one.

George the cleaner sits on Anne Marie's mountain of hoarded books (Credit: Channel 5)
George the cleaner sits on Anne Marie’s mountain of hoarded books (Credit: Channel 5)

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Is hoarding a mental illness?

Mental health problems associated with hoarding include depression, psychotic disorders, anxiety disorders, attention deficit / hyperactivity disorder, or alcohol use disorders.

In some cases, hoarding is a condition in itself and often associated with self-neglect.

Hoarders are more likely to live alone, be unmarried, have disadvantaged childhoods, and have a family history of hoarding.

Hoarding has historically been viewed as a symptom of obsessive-compulsive disorder.

However, recent research has shown that hoarding appears, for the most part, to be independent of other neurological and psychiatric disorders.

Why do people hoard? Is there a cure for hoarding?

Hoarding disorder is difficult to treat because many people who hoard frequently do not see it as a problem.

Many hoarders are reluctant to seek help even when they find they have a problem because they feel extremely ashamed, humiliated, or guilty.

It is really important to encourage a hoarding person to seek help.

If not addressed, it is an issue that will likely never go away.

If you suspect someone is hoarding, try persuading them to see a family doctor.

Your primary care doctor may be able to refer you to your local mental health team, who may have a therapist who is familiar with issues such as obsessive-compulsive disorder and hoarding.

If you are having trouble accessing therapy, contact the charity OCD-UK can maybe help.

Hoarding disorders are often treated with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

The therapist helps the person understand what makes things difficult to throw away and why the clutter has built up.

Antidepressants have also been shown to help some people with hoarding disorders.

Arthur surrounded by his treasure
Arthur surrounded by his treasure in Hoarder Homes: No room to move (Image credit: Channel 5)

Why do people hoard? How many hoarders are there in the UK?

Hoarding affects up to six percent of the population – that is potentially over 1.2 million people in the UK alone.

When severe, it is associated with a significant functional disability and places a great burden on those affected, their families, and society.

Research shows that hoarding disorders occur more frequently in men than in women.

It’s also more common in older adults – three times as many adults aged 55 to 94 years have a hoarding disorder as adults aged 34 to 44 years.

Hoarder Homes: No movement space on channel 5

This six-part documentary series sheds light on the many reasons why people hoard.

Professional cleaners and house clearance experts take care of the house.

Deep cleansing experts Caz and Tee come to clear Paul’s cottage in Bath.

But with rat droppings in the dining room and maggots in the master bedroom, it will be her toughest job ever.

Hoarder Homes: No Room To Move begins Monday, March 22, 2021 at 9 p.m. on Channel 5.

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