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What are the Different Kinds of Hoarding Treatments?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated May 17, 2024
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Hoarding is a compulsive behavior disorder that prompts individuals to collect and retain massive amounts of goods, food, or money with no identifiable intention of ever making use of the acquired resources. More than simply a negative habit that can be broken or replaced with another habit, hoarding is an emotional disorder that can ruin lives and relationships. Healing from this type of disorder usually requires a combination of hoarding treatments that uncover the underlying reasons for the hoarding activity, restore the patient’s environment to a more manageable state, and equip the individual to prevent regressing into a routine of hoarding in the future.

For many people suffering with compulsive hoarding, one of the most powerful hoarding treatments is counseling that involves behavior modification therapy. With the aid of a qualified therapist, the individual can begin to identify the events and thought processes that led to the desire to engage in hoarding activities. Many situations can trigger hoarding, including the loss of a loved one, a past financial crisis, or even something as simple as children growing up and moving out of the parents’ home. Identifying the causes of the hoarding make it possible to confront and resolve the issues that led to the compulsive activity, and begin to weaken their hold on the individual.

Along with identifying the root cause or causes for the obsessive hoarding, hoarding treatments also involve helping the individual to effectively deal with the triggers that lead to the urge to hoard. This often means replacing those responses with something that is more constructive. This type of behavior modification can take time to begin making a noticeable difference in the attitudes and actions of the hoarder, although small shifts in habits may appear early on in the treatment. Over time, the urge to hoard is replaced with other activities that also provide the emotional high that acquiring goods provides, without triggering the emotional lows that typically follow when the hoarder brings home more items that have no place to be stored and cannot be used or consumed immediately.

Since many hoarders develop depression or anxiety disorders during the course of their disease, it is not unusual for hoarding treatments to include counseling and medication that helps to control those conditions. Doing so can often help the individual obtain an emotional balance and become more receptive to getting past the hoarding, and possibly more confident in the ability to eventually control and overcome the urge to hoard. As the healing progresses, the bouts of depression and occasional panic attacks become less severe, which only helps to improve the chances of being free from the hoarding disorder.

As a final component to many hoarding treatments, letting go of the items hoarded is essential to changing the way the individual lives. For people who hoard food or household goods, this means getting rid of all items that are not being used or consumed, any items that have spoiled or are no longer usable, and eliminating any items that are duplicated. Often, professional organizers as well as friends and family members can aid in this process, while taking care to make sure the patient is always in control of what goes and what stays. Allowing the decision to remain with the hoarder prevents a sense of being controlled by others, and ultimately provides strong feelings of accomplishment once the cleanup is finished.

Hoarding is not a disorder that is overcome in a matter of days or even weeks. Many hoarders take months or years to completely recover. This makes it necessary for at least some of the hoarding treatments to continue after other treatments have ran their course and are no longer necessary to the recovery process.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum , Writer
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including WiseGEEK, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.

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Malcolm Tatum

Malcolm Tatum


Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
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