The link between ADHD and Hoarding
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Hoarding Disorder share many similarities that at first glance, it may be hard to tell them apart, or if you have both disorders. People with ADHD find it hard to keep their homes organized, and there's usually clutter. People with Hoarding disorder excessively accumulate items that they're unwilling to discard, leading to clutter.
So, if you have ADHD and observed you've been having loads of clutter at home, how do you know if it's just ADHD symptoms and not hoarding disorder?
ADHD and hoarding: why hoarding is life-threatening
ADHD and hoarding are highly comorbid. According to a UK study, 1 in 5 adults with ADHD also manifest hoarding symptoms.
Hoarding is a less-talked-about mental disorder, but it can hurt a person's quality of life just as much as addiction. Hoarding goes beyond just accumulating possessions. Affected individuals find it mentally challenging to let go even when they no longer have any use for the items. Having filled their living space with so much clutter, their day-to-day functioning can be impaired, leading to frustration, poorer quality of life, and depression.
But how do you know it's really hoarding?
Symptoms of hoarding
Hoarding symtpoms include:
Excessive Accumulation: Persistent difficulty in getting rid of or letting go of items, regardless of their usefulness, value, or need. This leads to a substantial accumulation of possessions, often to the point where living spaces become cluttered and unmanageable.
Inability to Discard: Hoarders often experience extreme emotional distress or anxiety at the thought of discarding items, even those that are no longer usable, due to a strange emotional attachment.
Cluttered Living Spaces: The clutter may extend to areas such as hallways, staircases, and even beds or furniture.
Difficulty Organizing: As with ADHD, hoarders struggle with organizing possessions and often feel overwhelmed by the volume of items they possess.
Social Isolation: Hoarding disorder can lead to social isolation as individuals may feel embarrassed or ashamed of their living conditions and may avoid having visitors.
Functional Impairment: The hoarding behavior can result in the impairment of daily activities, such as cooking, cleaning, bathing, and sleeping, due to the cluttered living environment.
Emotional Distress: Hoarders may experience anxiety, depression, or shame related to their hoarding behavior, especially if they recognize the negative impact it has on their life.
These can also be put as the 5 stages of hoarding:
Acquisition: This is the initial stage where individuals start accumulating possessions. Some pick up things they find, believing they'll come in handy in the future.
Clutter: As the accumulation continues, clutter starts to build up in the living space.
Disorganization: In this stage of hoarding, the clutter becomes overwhelming, and the individual finds it challenging to keep their living space organized.
Impairment: As hoarding progresses, the clutter starts impairing the individual's daily life and functioning, such as cooking and hygeine. They also tend to fall into social isolation at this stage.
Denial and Avoidance: People with hoarding disorder may deny or downplay the severity of the hoarding problem. The embarrassment may also make them resistant to receiving help to clean up their space.
Treating hoarding as part of ADHD support
ADHD and hoarding combined can severely impact the individual’s quality of life as they struggle with clutter and disorganization daily. But they can be treated together. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can be particularly helpful for treating ADHD and hoarding.
If everything in this blog relates to you, it's understandable that you'll feel embarrassed. It's not one of those disorders you're willing to tell people about or seek help with.
But HELP, that's precisely what you need at this point, to get a hold of your life again and let go of that shame.
If that is you, I can help. Come, let's talk.