Disclaimer: The information in the article isn't intended to diagnose, treat or cure any known or unknown disease or illness.

How to Help a Friend with Hoarding Disorder

Discover effective strategies to help someone with hoarding disorder. From providing support to building a supportive environment, learn how to make a positive impact.

January 7, 2024

Understanding Hoarding Disorder

Hoarding disorder is a complex mental health condition that affects individuals in various ways. To provide effective support to someone with hoarding disorder, it is important to have a clear understanding of the disorder, its signs and symptoms, as well as its impact on daily life and relationships.

What is Hoarding Disorder?

Hoarding disorder is characterized by persistent difficulty in discarding or parting with possessions, regardless of their value. People with hoarding disorder experience intense distress at the thought of getting rid of items, leading to excessive accumulation and clutter in their living spaces. This behavior goes beyond simply collecting or being messy, and it significantly impairs their ability to function in their living environment.

Hoarding disorder is recognized as a distinct mental health condition and is not the result of laziness, disorganization, or lack of motivation. It often requires professional help and support to manage and address the underlying issues associated with the disorder.

Signs and Symptoms of Hoarding Disorder

Identifying the signs and symptoms of hoarding disorder can help you recognize when someone may be struggling with this condition. Some common signs and symptoms include:

  • Persistent difficulty discarding items, even if they have little or no value.
  • Severe anxiety or distress when attempting to discard possessions.
  • Extreme clutter that prevents areas of the home from being used for their intended purpose.
  • Difficulty organizing possessions and feeling overwhelmed by the thought of doing so.
  • Strong emotional attachment to possessions, often ascribing sentimental or intrinsic value to them.
  • Social isolation and withdrawal due to shame or embarrassment about the living conditions.
  • Impaired functioning and difficulty maintaining personal relationships.

Impact on Daily Life and Relationships

Hoarding disorder can have a profound impact on an individual's daily life and relationships. Living in cluttered and disorganized spaces can lead to functional impairments, making it challenging to perform everyday activities such as cooking, cleaning, and personal hygiene. Hoarding can also compromise the safety and hygiene of the living environment, increasing the risk of falls, fire hazards, and health issues.

The impact of hoarding disorder extends beyond the individual's immediate living space. It can strain relationships with family members, friends, and neighbors who may struggle to understand or cope with the clutter and disarray. The shame and embarrassment associated with hoarding disorder often lead individuals to isolate themselves, further exacerbating the strain on their social connections.

To provide support and assistance to someone with hoarding disorder, it is essential to recognize the significant impact it has on their daily life and relationships. Encouraging them to seek professional help and offering understanding and empathy can be crucial steps toward recovery.

By understanding the nature of hoarding disorder, its signs and symptoms, and the challenges it presents, you can approach the situation with empathy and compassion, laying the foundation for effective support and assistance.

Approaching the Situation

When it comes to helping someone with hoarding disorder, it's important to approach the situation with care and understanding. Here are some key steps to consider:

Educate Yourself about Hoarding Disorder

Before approaching someone with hoarding disorder, it's essential to educate yourself about the condition. Understanding what hoarding disorder is and its associated symptoms can help you approach the situation more effectively. By familiarizing yourself with the disorder, you'll be better equipped to provide the necessary support.

Choose the Right Time and Place

When addressing the issue of hoarding disorder, it's crucial to choose the right time and place for the conversation. Find a quiet and comfortable environment where both of you can have an open and private discussion. It's important to ensure that the person feels safe and not judged during this conversation. By selecting the right time and place, you can create a supportive atmosphere that encourages open communication.

Show Empathy and Compassion

Approaching someone with hoarding disorder requires empathy and compassion. It's crucial to remember that hoarding disorder is a complex mental health condition, and the person may be experiencing significant distress. Show understanding by listening attentively and validating their feelings and experiences. Avoid criticizing or making judgments, as this can hinder the trust-building process. By demonstrating empathy and compassion, you can create a safe space for the person to open up and seek help.

Remember, supporting someone with hoarding disorder is a long-term process that requires patience and understanding. By educating yourself about the disorder, choosing the right time and place for conversations, and showing empathy and compassion, you can lay the foundation for effective support and help the person on their journey towards recovery. Encourage them to seek professional help, offer practical assistance, and establish healthy boundaries.

Providing Support

When helping someone with hoarding disorder, it's essential to approach the situation with empathy, compassion, and understanding. Here are three ways you can provide support to someone struggling with hoarding disorder: encourage professional help, offer practical assistance, and establish boundaries.

Encourage Professional Help

Encouraging the person to seek professional help is a crucial step in effectively addressing hoarding disorder. A mental health professional experienced in hoarding disorder can provide a proper diagnosis, offer personalized treatment plans, and guide the individual towards recovery. Therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), has shown positive results in helping individuals with hoarding disorder.

It's important to approach the topic of professional help with sensitivity and understanding. Offer support by researching local therapists or treatment centers specializing in hoarding disorder and provide this information to the person. Let them know that seeking help is a brave and positive step towards improving their well-being.

Offer Practical Assistance

Offering practical assistance can make a significant difference in helping someone with hoarding disorder. However, it's essential to remember that the person must be willing to accept help and participate actively in the process. Here are a few ways you can provide practical assistance:

  1. Collaborative Sorting and Organizing: Offer to assist with sorting through belongings and organizing them. Encourage the person to make decisions about what to keep, donate, or discard. Provide guidance without judgment and ensure the process is respectful and non-intrusive.
  2. Creating a Supportive Network: Help the person connect with local support groups or organizations specializing in hoarding disorder. These groups can provide a sense of community, understanding, and guidance throughout the recovery journey.
  3. Assistance with Cleaning and Maintenance: Offer help with maintaining a clean and safe environment. This can include regular cleaning sessions, identifying potential safety hazards, and implementing preventive measures to minimize clutter buildup.

Establish Boundaries

While providing support, it's crucial to establish and maintain healthy boundaries. Remember that you cannot force someone to change their behavior or tackle their hoarding challenges overnight. Respect their autonomy and avoid becoming overly involved or intrusive.

Establishing boundaries includes setting limits on your own involvement and ensuring that you take care of your mental and emotional well-being. It's essential to strike a balance between offering support and maintaining your own personal boundaries. This can help prevent burnout and maintain a healthy relationship with the individual.

By encouraging professional help, offering practical assistance, and establishing boundaries, you can play a vital role in supporting someone with hoarding disorder on their path to recovery. Remember, patience, understanding, and ongoing support are key elements in assisting them through this challenging journey.

Building a Supportive Environment

When helping someone with hoarding disorder, it's essential to create a supportive environment that fosters understanding, empathy, and non-judgment. This section will explore three key aspects of building such an environment: creating a safe and non-judgmental space, helping with sorting and organizing, and developing healthy coping strategies.

Creating a Safe and Non-judgmental Space

One of the most important steps in supporting someone with hoarding disorder is creating a safe and non-judgmental space. Hoarding disorder is often accompanied by feelings of shame, guilt, and embarrassment, so it's crucial to approach the situation with empathy and understanding.

  • Avoid criticizing or making negative comments about the person's living conditions.
  • Listen attentively and validate their feelings without judgment.
  • Respect their boundaries and privacy.
  • Offer reassurance that you are there to support them, no matter what.

By creating a safe and non-judgmental environment, you can help the person feel more comfortable and open to receiving assistance.

Helping with Sorting and Organizing

Assisting with sorting and organizing can be a daunting task, but it is an important part of helping someone with hoarding disorder reclaim their living space. Here are some guidelines to follow:

  • Offer your help, but ensure that the person feels in control of the decision-making process.
  • Break down the task into smaller, manageable steps to avoid overwhelming them.
  • Prioritize areas that are causing the most distress or have the greatest impact on their daily life.
  • Use a gentle and collaborative approach, allowing the person to decide what to keep and what to discard.
  • Consider involving a professional organizer or therapist specializing in hoarding disorder to provide expert guidance and support.

Remember, the goal is not to force the person to get rid of everything, but rather to create a safer and more functional living environment.

Develop Healthy Coping Strategies

Helping someone with hoarding disorder involves not only physical assistance but also emotional support. Encouraging the development of healthy coping strategies can be beneficial for long-term recovery. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Encourage the person to seek therapy or counseling to address the underlying causes of hoarding disorder. Therapy can provide valuable insights and coping mechanisms.
  • Suggest joining a support group or community where they can connect with others facing similar challenges. These groups provide a safe space to share experiences and learn from one another.
  • Help the person identify healthy coping mechanisms such as engaging in hobbies, practicing mindfulness or meditation, and seeking social support.
  • Encourage self-care practices, emphasizing the importance of taking breaks, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and engaging in activities that bring joy and relaxation.

Developing healthy coping strategies can provide individuals with hoarding disorder the tools they need to manage their emotions and reduce the urge to hoard. It's important to be patient and supportive throughout this process, as recovery takes time.

By creating a safe and non-judgmental space, assisting with sorting and organizing, and promoting healthy coping strategies, you can provide valuable support to someone with hoarding disorder on their journey towards a clutter-free and fulfilling life.

Long-Term Strategies for Recovery

Free photo woman and counselor talking and staying close

Helping someone with hoarding disorder requires a long-term approach that focuses on supporting their journey towards recovery. Here are some strategies to consider for their ongoing progress:

Encouraging Therapy and Treatment

Encouraging the individual to seek therapy and treatment is a crucial step in their recovery process. Therapy can provide them with the necessary tools and support to address the underlying causes of hoarding disorder and learn healthier coping mechanisms.

Types of therapy that have shown effectiveness in treating hoarding disorder include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy. CBT helps individuals challenge their thoughts and beliefs about possessions, while ERP therapy gradually exposes them to anxiety-provoking situations related to discarding items.

Managing Relapses and Setbacks

Recovery from hoarding disorder may not always be linear, and setbacks are common. It's essential to be prepared to support the individual during these times. Encourage them to reach out to their therapist or support groups, such as hoarding disorder support groups, for guidance and reassurance.

Remind them that setbacks are a normal part of the recovery process and that progress can still be made. Encourage them to focus on the positive steps they have taken and remind them of their strengths and resilience. Providing ongoing emotional support can make a significant difference in their ability to navigate through challenging times.

Promoting Self-Care and Self-Compassion

Self-care and self-compassion play a vital role in the recovery journey of someone with hoarding disorder. Encourage the individual to prioritize self-care activities that help reduce stress and maintain overall well-being. This can include engaging in hobbies, practicing relaxation techniques, or seeking support from loved ones.

Promote self-compassion by helping them develop a positive and understanding attitude toward themselves. It's important for them to recognize that recovery takes time and effort, and setbacks should not be met with self-blame or harsh judgment. Encourage them to practice self-compassion and remind them that they deserve kindness and understanding throughout their journey.

By focusing on long-term strategies such as encouraging therapy and treatment, managing relapses and setbacks, and promoting self-care and self-compassion, you can provide ongoing support for someone with hoarding disorder. Remember to continue educating yourself about hoarding disorder and reach out to appropriate resources, such as hoarding disorder causes, to deepen your understanding and enhance your ability to help.


Supporting someone with hoarding disorder can be a challenging and complex process, but it is also a crucial one. By approaching the situation with empathy, compassion, and understanding, we can create a safe and supportive environment that encourages open communication and fosters long-term recovery.

Remember to encourage professional help, offer practical assistance while maintaining healthy boundaries, build a supportive environment through non-judgmental space, sorting, organizing and developing healthy coping strategies. Long-term strategies like therapy and treatment are essential for promoting recovery.

It's important to remember that recovery from hoarding disorder is a journey that requires patience, understanding, and ongoing support. By continuing to educate ourselves about this complex mental health condition and providing compassionate support to those affected by it, we can make a positive difference in their lives.


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