Do hoarders lack empathy?

Do Hoarders Lack Empathy? Exploring Emotional Connections


Hoarding disorder is a real and overwhelming psychological condition where someone cannot discard or part with their items without feeling extremely distressed. It directly affects a sufferer’s life, jeopardizing health and safety, undermining financial security, and stressing relationships with friends and family. Hoarding disorder is now recognized as a standalone diagnosis in the DSM. Hoarding is characterized by intense and emotional over-attachment to objects, compulsion to acquire, and an inability to part with items. Hoarders often lack the ability to organize, care for, locate, make use of, or enjoy the items they have acquired. They also have a lack of awareness about the severity of their hoarding behavior and its impact on their living conditions. Hoarding is usually accompanied by feelings of anxiety, depression, shame, fear, helplessness, grief, loneliness, or other difficult emotions. It is more common than previously thought, affecting up to five in every 100 people. Hoarding can also be observed in children and young adults, and it is often linked to traumatic life experiences.

Key Takeaways:

  • Hoarding disorder is a psychological condition that affects a person’s ability to discard items.
  • Hoarding can jeopardize health and safety, undermine financial security, and strain relationships.
  • Hoarders often lack the ability to organize and care for their belongings.
  • Hoarding is accompanied by difficult emotions, such as anxiety, depression, and shame.
  • It is more common than previously thought, affecting up to 5% of the population.
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Common Risk Factors and Comorbidities of Hoarding Disorder

Hoarding disorder is influenced by a variety of risk factors and often coexists with other mental disorders. Genetics and brain chemistry play a role in the development of hoarding behavior. Individuals with a family history of hoarding are more susceptible to the disorder, suggesting a genetic predisposition. Brain scans have revealed differences in decision-making areas of hoarders’ brains, further supporting the genetic component.

It is not uncommon for hoarding disorder to be accompanied by other mental health conditions. Hoarders may also experience obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD), anxiety disorders, depression, inattentive ADHD, or borderline personality disorder. These comorbidities contribute to the complexity and severity of hoarding behavior.

Traumatic life experiences, particularly in childhood, are frequently found in the histories of hoarders. Such experiences can increase the likelihood of hoarding as a coping mechanism or a way to hold onto a sense of security. Aging also plays a role in hoarding behavior, as losses and traumas experienced earlier in life become more significant, leading to feelings of vulnerability and helplessness.

Hoarding in Aging Individuals

As individuals age, the propensity for hoarding behavior may increase. Aging can intensify the impact of previous losses and traumas, making it more challenging to part with possessions. Additionally, feelings of vulnerability and helplessness may become more pronounced, further exacerbating hoarding tendencies. Recognizing these specific challenges faced by aging individuals with hoarding disorder is crucial in developing effective treatment and support strategies.

Understanding the Link Between Mindfulness and Hoarding Behavior

When it comes to hoarding behavior, there is growing evidence to suggest that dispositional mindfulness plays a crucial role. Dispositional mindfulness refers to an individual’s ability and tendency to maintain mindfulness over time, and it has been found to be negatively associated with hoarding behavior. In other words, individuals who have higher levels of mindfulness are less likely to engage in hoarding behaviors.

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One reason for this link may be the relationship between dispositional mindfulness and self-esteem. Research has shown that higher levels of mindfulness are associated with higher self-esteem. This is important because low self-esteem has been found to be a contributing factor to hoarding behavior. By fostering mindfulness, individuals may be better able to make non-reactive decisions and reduce judgmental attitudes towards themselves, ultimately boosting their self-esteem and decreasing their inclination to hoard.

The Role of Emotion Dysregulation and Gender Differences

Emotion dysregulation, or the inability to effectively manage and regulate emotions, is another factor that may mediate the relationship between dispositional mindfulness and hoarding behavior. Higher levels of mindfulness have been found to be associated with lower emotion dysregulation, which in turn is linked to less hoarding behavior. By cultivating mindfulness, individuals may be better equipped to regulate their emotions and reduce impulsive and reflexive behaviors that contribute to hoarding.

It is also important to consider gender differences in the relationship between mindfulness and hoarding behavior. Research suggests that women may exhibit a stronger mediating effect of emotion dysregulation compared to men. This means that for women, the relationship between dispositional mindfulness and hoarding behavior may be influenced to a greater extent by their ability to regulate their emotions. However, further research is needed to fully understand these gender differences and their implications for hoarding treatment and support.


Understanding hoarding behavior is crucial in order to provide effective support and treatment for individuals struggling with this complex psychological condition. It is important to approach hoarders with empathy and understanding, recognizing that their behavior is not a choice but a result of disordered thoughts and behaviors.

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Treatment for hoarding often involves cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which focuses on exploring and redirecting hoarding urges, developing practical skills, and addressing underlying issues through therapy. By taking a holistic approach to hoarding treatment, addressing comorbidities, traumatic experiences, and self-esteem, we can achieve more effective outcomes.

Support from family and loved ones is essential in the recovery process. Rather than judgment or forced decluttering, it is important to provide understanding and a safe space for individuals to express their emotions. By creating an environment of support, we can help hoarders navigate their journey towards a healthier and more organized life.

In conclusion, understanding hoarding behavior, providing appropriate treatment, and supporting hoarders in a compassionate manner are key in helping them overcome the challenges they face. By working together and adopting a holistic approach, we can make a positive difference in the lives of individuals affected by hoarding disorder.

Do Hoarders Lack Empathy, Which Leads Them to Hoard?

Exploring hoarders’ selfishness truth, it’s suggested that hoarders may lack empathy, contributing to their hoarding behavior. Their reluctance to discard items disregards the impact on others, possibly stemming from a lack of understanding or concern for others’ emotions. This lack of empathy can lead to excessive hoarding.

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