ADHD Linked to Hoarding Behavior

Summary: People with ADHD are significantly more likely to develop hoarding behaviors, a new study finds.

Source: Anglia Ruskin University

New research has found that people with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are significantly more likely to also exhibit hoarding behaviors, which can have a serious impact on their quality of life.

The study, published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research and funded by the British Academy and the Leverhulme Trust, found that almost one in five people with ADHD exhibited clinically significant levels of hoarding, indicating there could be a hidden population of adults struggling with hoarding and its consequences.

Hoarding disorder is a recognized condition that involves excessive accumulation, difficulties discarding and excessive clutter. The disorder can lead to distress or difficulties in everyday life and can contribute to depression and anxiety.

Previous research into hoarding disorder has mainly focused on older females who self-identify as hoarders and have sought help later in life. This new study, led by Dr. Sharon Morein of Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), recruited 88 participants from an adult ADHD clinic run by the Cambridge and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust.

The study found that 19% of this ADHD group displayed clinically significant hoarding symptoms, were on average in their 30s, and there was an equal gender split. Amongst the remaining 81%, the researchers found greater hoarding severity, but not to a degree that significantly impaired their lives, compared to the study’s control group.

The researchers asked the same questions, about ADHD symptoms and impulsivity, levels of hoarding and clutter, obsessive compulsive severity, perfectionism, depression and anxiety, and everyday function, on a closely-matched group of 90 adults from the general population, without an ADHD diagnosis, and found only 2% of this control group exhibited clinically significant hoarding symptoms.

They then replicated this with a larger online sample of 220 UK adults to see if similar patterns were found, and similarly only 3% of this group exhibited symptoms.

This shows the outline of a head
Hoarding disorder is a recognized condition that involves excessive accumulation, difficulties discarding and excessive clutter. Image is in the public domain

Dr. Morein, Associate Professor in Psychology at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), said: “Hoarding disorder is much more than simply collecting too many possessions. People with diagnosed hoarding disorder have filled their living areas with so many items and clutter that it impacts their day-to-day functioning leading to a poorer quality of life, anxiety, and depression.

“Overall, we found that people who had been diagnosed with ADHD had a higher likelihood of also having hoarding symptoms. This is important because it demonstrates that hoarding doesn’t just affect people later in life, who are typically the focus of much of the research so far into hoarding disorder.

“Our findings also indicate that hoarding disorder should be routinely assessed in individuals with ADHD, as they do not typically disclose associated difficulties despite these potentially impairing their everyday lives. Likewise, it is possible that many people who are currently being treated for hoarding disorder might also have undiagnosed ADHD.

“Greater awareness amongst clinicians and people with ADHD about the link between ADHD and hoarding could also lead to more effective long-term management, as hoarding often gradually worsens with time.”

About this ADHD research news

Author: Press Office
Source: Anglia Ruskin University
Contact: Press Office – Anglia Ruskin University
Image: The image is in the public domain

Original Research: Closed access.
Elevated levels of hoarding in ADHD: A special link with inattention” by Sharon Morein-Zamir et al. Journal of Psychiatric Research


Elevated levels of hoarding in ADHD: A special link with inattention

Hoarding Disorder (HD) is under recognised and under-treated. Though HD develops by early adulthood, patients present only later in life, resulting in research based largely on samples of predominantly older females.

Whilst formerly associated with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), it is now recognised that individuals with HD often have inattention symptoms reminiscent of Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Here, we investigated HD in adults with ADHD. Patients in an ADHD clinic (n = 88) reported on ADHD, HD and OCD-related symptoms, and compared with age, gender and education matched controls (n = 90).

Findings were assessed independently in an online UK sample to verify replication using a dimensional approach (n = 220). Clinically significant hoarding symptoms were found in ∼20% versus 2% of ADHD and control groups, respectively, with those with hoarding being on average in their thirties and with approximately half being male.

Greater hoarding severity was noted even in the remaining patients compared with controls (d = 0.89). Inattention was the only significant statistical predictor of hoarding severity in patients. Similarly, inattention, alongside depression and anxiety were the greatest predictors of hoarding in the independent sample where 3.2% identified as having clinically significant hoarding.

Patients with ADHD had a high frequency of hoarding symptoms, which were specifically linked to inattention. HD should be routinely assessed in individuals with ADHD, as they do not typically disclose associated difficulties, despite these potentially leading to impaired everyday functioning.

Research in HD should also investigate adults with ADHD, who are younger and with a greater prevalence of males than typical HD samples.

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  1. So how to go about fixing this if you have it?! Instead of saying the same this over and over by different Dr.s.

  2. Your article makes me wonder if my now deceased mother (would have been 97 this year) d alt with this problem. She could not throw anything out. I couldn’t stand the mess when I live there and was ashamed of it. When she passed her house was stuffed with junk. As the oldest of eleven I never understood her. She was intelligent but stupid at the same time from my young perspective. She was a religious fanatic, I thought. We fought constantly and were estranged from my early 20s to my mid-sixies. There is diagnosis ADHD in the younger generations of my family. Anyway maybe this is why. Of course I am not a clinician of any kind.

  3. As a woman with ADHD, I have struggled with hoarding since my early 20s. Doctors never diagnosed me with ADHD. At 36, the lack of control increased my depression and anxiety because people comment on my junky car or workspace.

    ADHD impacts my hoarding habits,binge eating, anxiety, and my depression. Medication only helps with the binge eating and reducing the depression.

    One of the expensive ways I attempt to control hoarding is with a cleaning service. To prevent the cleaner from seeing my disgusting home, I “clean” before they arrive. When I say clean, this involves hiding items in closets, drawers, and or the garage. That results in disorganized areas that are hidden until the cleaner leaves.

  4. I was recently diagnosed with ADHD. I’m a man of 58 and have collected sheet music, records, movie posters and lobby cards, plays & books but also hung on to mail from years ago, stored in boxes marked GT for ‘Go Thru’. (I’m going thru them now, shredding everything that has personal info on it, and I’m aware that most people didn’t keep banking statements from the 1990s beyond tax purposes.) There were other mini collections as a kid; stamps, coins, comics, geodes and rocks I polished. They were spurred by the interest of others. From a very early age, ‘things’ were important because they were stationary, something to return to and show off.

    Owning things meant security; saving articles to base a play on or clippings of books to read meant I had purpose somewhere down the line. Some are still hard to let go because I remember the plot twist I wanted to add twenty years ago. Lots of my things do have true value in certain markets(real movie posters will never go down and thank God for the Vinyl resurrection), but understanding why I started on them is more important.

    *My Mother loved sheet music and the piano, so I took that on. 8 boxes of single sheets but no piano at home.
    *My Father was in radio and he would leave me in the record room as a kid when he took me to work. I could take home 45s from the reject pile, and when he was gone for extended periods, the records were still with me. Scattered and shy, I later enjoyed the safe station of DJ for junior and senior high dances. There are shoulder high boxes of 45s to my right and I’m just starting to go through them for order.
    *Movies were an escape, and I was staying up late at night for old movies so owning movie posters started in my teens, and seeing a movie is still a balm for my soul if I’m down. Oh, I collected 8mm, then 16mm features, shorts and newsreels, all now filed on shelves in the basement and I would have movie parties. Nothing like watching the first reel of Poseidon Adventure and pausing at midnight on New Years to toast and continue with the wave hitting the ship (or playing the hold your breath with Shelly Winters game).
    *I have training as a director and actor, so hundreds of plays were important for monologues.

    I always assumed I would deal with it all later, but with no kids or interested relatives, I’m trying to figure out what to do with it all. I have a mild heart thing so I can only take a low dose of salts, just enough to keep me from walking through invisible mud.

    It isn’t out of control – nothing will topple on me or my wife – and there aren’t any dead kittens or unusual trash in back rooms like on the tv show Hoarders. But it’s interesting to add this new leaf of information to my piles of interest. I think some of my details fit this profile. Now what.

  5. I’m autistic and have ADHD,I prefer cleanliness and being a minimalist, especially when it comes to my car and home

    1. I don’t think the problem is so much about preference, because I too prefer to live in a clean and minimalastic home and yet I have a hoarding disorder and ADHD that has lead to a problem with clutter.

  6. interesting. im in my 30s i was diagnosed with adhd at a very young age. while i dont have a lot of material things i find that I’m “lazy” and don’t throw away my trash a lot of times. ill just set it down while im watching a show or something and then ignore it, even though i walk past the garbage 100 times a day. i always figured it was laziness coupled with my forgetfulness. but now im not sure. it is to a point im embaraseed to have ppl over before i clean up, so i guess i know its a problem but idnt how to fix it.

    1. My wife has added and she hoards everything. She can’t throw out anything
      Our house is stacked. We can’t have anyone over because it is to embarrassing. What can be done? I have been reading about a new device for anxiety and depression. You put it on your head for 20 min a day as ND it I’d add ipposed to help

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