What is hoarding disorder?

Many people see having a tidy and well-organized space as a significant accomplishment. However, some individuals struggle to have this discernment because they struggle to relinquish their possessions. In worse cases, this habit can lead to a mental health condition called hoarding disorder.

Hoarding can be easily mistaken as collecting, but both differ significantly. Collectors gather items deliberately and display them with care, while hoarders accumulate things impulsively, often without a plan. Collectors focus on specific themes, whereas hoarders' possessions lack a consistent theme. Collectors organize and display their items, but hoarders' spaces are typically cluttered and disorganized.

Hoarding disorders have consistent patterns, affecting both genders equally. It often starts early in life and worsens over time, with severity increasing decade by decade.

The five stages of hoarding

While hoarding disorder doesn't have clearly defined stages, its severity can be categorized into different levels:

No problem: Least severe indicators

During this stage, subtle signs of clutter may accumulate, but it doesn't significantly impede daily activities or raise significant concerns. Individuals might notice a slight increase in possessions but can still maintain a functional living environment relatively easily.

Mild: Noticeable clutter to visitors and embarrassment

Clutter becomes more apparent, with visitors noticing the accumulation of items in the living space. Individuals may start to feel embarrassed or self-conscious about the state of their home when others visit. While the clutter is noticeable, it may not yet pose serious safety hazards or

Moderate: Odors, poor hygiene/sanitation, and unusable spaces

The hoarding behavior escalates, resulting in unpleasant odors, poor hygiene, and sanitation issues within the living environment. Clutter accumulates to the point where certain areas become unusable due to the sheer volume of possessions. Individuals may struggle to maintain cleanliness and organization, leading to health and safety concerns.

Severe: Structural damage, sewage issues, and infestation

Hoarding reaches a critical stage, causing structural damage to the home and plumbing systems. Sewage issues may arise due to blocked pipes or neglect of maintenance. Infestations of pests such as rodents or insects become common as clutter provides ideal habitats. The living environment becomes increasingly hazardous and unsanitary, posing significant risks to health and safety.

Extreme: Fire hazards, no utilities, and mental illness

At this stage, hoarding poses severe risks to both physical and mental well-being. Clutter obstructs pathways and exits, creating fire hazards and preventing emergency access. Utilities may be shut off due to neglect or inability to access utility meters. Mental illness, often co-occurring with hoarding disorder, may exacerbate the condition, leading to further deterioration of the living environment and increased isolation and distress for the individual. Intervention from mental health professionals and specialized hoarding cleanup services is often necessary to address the complex challenges at this level.

Printable Levels of Hoarding Test

Download this Levels of Hoarding Test to assess the severity of hoarding behaviors and inform targeted intervention strategies for individuals, facilitating effective support and treatment planning in mental health care.

Diagnostic process

Diagnosing Hoarding Disorder involves identifying specific symptoms outlined by the American Psychiatric Association (2013). These symptoms include persistent difficulty discarding possessions, leading to clutter that significantly impairs living areas and causes distress.

The clutter must cause distress or problems in various areas of life, such as social interactions or maintaining a safe environment. Assessments for hoarding often involve questions about difficulty discarding possessions, clutter's impact on daily functioning, and the distress caused by symptoms.

Mental health professionals may also consult with friends and family or use questionnaires to assess functioning levels. Excessive acquisition of possessions is common and should be monitored closely. Alongside difficulty discarding and clutter, individuals with hoarding disorder often exhibit associated problems such as indecisiveness, perfectionism, and disorganization, which can further exacerbate their difficulties. While some individuals may recognize their hoarding behavior as problematic, others may not perceive it as such.

What is a Levels of Hoarding Test?

The Levels of Hoarding Test is excellent, as it provides a resource to assist you in assessing compulsive hoarding, a severe condition impacting individuals' lives.

This tool can help evaluate various aspects of hoarding behavior, including difficulty discarding items, accumulating identical items, and the presence of clutter. Through administering the hoarder quiz, mental health professionals can gather pertinent information regarding the severity of hoarding symptoms and associated anxiety levels.

Involving family members in the assessment process can offer additional insights into the individual's hoarding behavior and its impact on social relationships and daily functioning. It's important to note that while the Hoarding Rating Scale is a valuable tool, it alone cannot provide a definitive diagnosis.

A comprehensive evaluation by a qualified mental health professional is necessary for accurate diagnosis and the development of tailored treatment plans for individuals struggling with compulsive hoarding.

How does our Levels of Hoarding Test template work?

Our Levels of Hoarding Test can assist practitioners in assessing hoarding behaviors in patients. Here's a guide on how to utilize it effectively in your practice:

Access the template

Obtain access to the Levels of Hoarding Test template provided by our platform. You can access it online or download the template for offline use.

Review instructions

Familiarize yourself with the instructions provided within the template. Ensure that you understand how to administer the assessment accurately to your clients.

Explain the process

Before administering the test, explain the purpose and process of the assessment to your client. Ensure they understand the questions and the rating scale used to evaluate their hoarding behaviors.

Guide client through questions

Guide your client through each question in the template. Ask them to rate their experience with each hoarding symptom described in the questions using the provided scale (0 to 8).

Calculate the total score and interpret

Once your client has completed all the questions, calculate their total score by summing up the scores from each question. This total score will provide an overall measure of their hoarding severity.

Levels of Hoarding Test example

We have developed a Levels of Hoarding Test Example to demonstrate how this assessment tool functions. This sample provides an overview of how to record responses and interpret findings after administering the Levels of Hoarding Test to a hypothetical client.

Download our free Levels of Hoarding Test template example here

Levels of Hoarding Test example

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American Psychiatric Association. (n.d.). Psychiatry.org - What is Hoarding Disorder. Psychiatry.org. https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/hoarding-disorder/what-is-hoarding-disorder#section_1

How is hoarding disorder different from collecting or saving items?
How is hoarding disorder different from collecting or saving items?

Commonly asked questions

How is hoarding disorder different from collecting or saving items?

While collecting or saving items may involve acquiring and organizing specific items of interest, hoarding disorder involves an excessive accumulation of possessions, often resulting in clutter that compromises living spaces and creates distress or impairment in daily life.

What are the signs and symptoms of hoarding disorder?

The symptoms of hoarding disorder include difficulty discarding items, excessive clutter in living spaces, feelings of distress or anxiety when attempting to discard possessions, indecisiveness about what to keep or toss, and impairment in functioning due to clutter.

Can hoarding disorder be treated?

Yes, hoarding disorder can be treated, typically through therapy, medication, and support from mental health professionals. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and drugs such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) may be effective in treating hoarding disorder.

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