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Hoarding In Children

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Written By Florena Davies of Organize By Flo as part of our Organizing Blog Collab.

What is hoarding? Hoarding is a part of the DSM 5 which is a Diagnostical & Statistical manual of mental disorders. Hoarding is Classified under Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and related category. Although Hoarding is related to OCD, children with OCD are not compelled to hoard in order to alleviate anxiety.  The Mayo clinic explains hoarding in this article as ”a persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions because of a perceived need to save them”. 

So, what about children? It is said 2-6 % of children and teens suffer from hoarding disorder and it can begin in young children as early as 6 years old. What might be the cause of this? Hoarding can stem from multiple things. Sometimes it runs in the family as it is linked to having a family member who also has hoarding disorder. Other times a stressful life event causing it such as a divorce, the death of some close to your child, house fire etc. Another hoarding risk factor is a pre-existing mental disorder: it is seen along side 25% of children with anxiety disorder, 20 % of children with OCD, 70 % of children with major depressive disorder and 30 % with ADD will develop a hoarding disorder.

What Are The Signs Of Hoarding In Children?

Well, the signs are very similar to those in adult Hoarders:

  • Their room is Full of stuff, their desks, shelves drawers, dresser & bed are all piled with stuff.
  • They become upset sometimes even angry or violent when you go to throw out small objects they possess. 
  • They are indecisive, perfectionistic, avoidant, procrastinate and struggle with planning and organizing.
  • They collect things that they don’t need and have no space to put them.

What might the dangers of hoarding be? Hoarding has several dangers:

  1. Infestation of bugs, rodents, feces etc.
  2. Fire hazard
  3. Stress
  4. Mental health disorders
  5. Anxiety
  6. Tripping hazards
  7. Becoming trapped and injury by shifting or falling items
  8. Mold
  9. Tripping hazards

So how do we treat children with hoarding disorder? First off, it is very important to Immediately speak with a Health professional as soon as you notice signs of Hoarding as Hoarding tends to increase with age. Parents working with a psychologist help will use incentives help their young child discard items, rewards being a trip to the zoo, or another outing of your child’s choice if he or she is able to discard a number of items in a set amount of time. 

-Another tactic is the 1 in 1 out method. This method is to keep things from coming in without an item going out. Encourage you child to leave an item at a grandparent’s or other relative’s home. They might resist, but remined them in a few days he or she can go back to pick it up it they really miss it. Remind them it will still be there, it is still their possession. Check in with them, remind them that they are still ok without this item. This shows them that it is ok, nothing changed without that item, and ill bet they actually never really missed it. 

-Restrict their space for hoarding. Give your child a space in their room for their hoard. It cannot be a space where they do their homework (i.e. their desk) it cannot be their bed as the bed should remain clear as this is a space for sleeping! And keep their items out of the rest of you home. Their stuff should NOT take up any space shared with the rest of the family. 

-In older children Cognitive Behaviour Therapy is a common treatment method. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy or CBT is a psycho-social intervention that aims to reduce symptoms of various mental health conditions mainly depression and anxiety disorders. CBT uses a gradual process which helps people take small steps toward a behaviour change.

-Check in with your child, arrange a set date and time to inspect. Setting a date and time creates honest and trust among your child and this will help you ensure things aren’t coming in that shouldn’t be. Ensure there is nothing Stolen, as if that is happening you must ensure you get on top of that ASAP.

– Do not shame your child, reprimand or anything of the sort. There is often so much shame surrounding hoarding and the goal is to encourage and heal, not do further damage.

Please, if you suspect your child is on the hoarding spectrum speak to your health care professional to seek help before it gets any worse. Hoarding can grow and become so extreme that it is phenomenally difficult to treat after its engrained and grown in individuals.


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