Child Hoarders

Do you know a child or a teenager who saves everything and can’t throw anything away?  It is possible that this young person, sometimes as young as 6 or 7, may be a hoarder, which is an anxiety disorder and often goes hand-in-hand with OCD.  It is not unusual for these children to be related to a hoarder, in fact, 50% of those who hoard have a relative who hoards. In these cases, often the parents need to be treated in order to help the children. 

A recent article discusses how to help identify if your child is a hoarder.  https://childmind.org/article/hoarding-in-children/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_content=READ%20MORE&utm_campaign=Weekly-05-28-19

In this article, the author suggests four questions to ask to help understand the situation better.

  • Can you see the floor in your child’s room?
  • Can you get clean clothes out of your child’s closet, or is it so packed with stuff that you can’t get in there?
  • Can he/she sleep in the bed, or is the bed temporary storage for everything?
  • Can he/she do homework at the desk, or is it covered with all kinds of stuff?

In addition to having all of the “stuff” in his/her room, a child who hoards “feels” differently about these items than a child who is disorganized or messy.  Throwing something away feels like the person is throwing out the memory, and it will no longer be retrievable. These kids feel anxiety and distress if items are thrown out.

One difference between children who collect vs. children who hoard is that the children with collections feel proud of their items and want to show them off to others.  It feels like an accomplishment. On the other hand, children who hoard have little organization to their items and feel embarrassed by them. Most kids who hoard don’t really understand themselves why they are saving the items, but they still do.

If you have a child who hoards or are concerned that your child may exhibit some of these behaviors, then it is suggested that you find a therapist who specializes in treating this anxiety disorder to help stop the behavior.