Unspoken Side Effects: Exploring the Top 10 Consequences of Hoarding

Hoarding is a surprisingly common issue. It is difficult not only for the hoarder but also for friends and loved ones. In many cases, hoarders are unaware or unwilling to accept that they have a problem. This denial can allow possessions to take over the person’s life. There are obvious reasons this can be a problem, especially cleanliness and organization. But cleanliness and organization are just the tip of the iceberg regarding hoarding effects.

Many other side effects can occur from hoarding habits. In the list below, we will look at ten side effects of hoarding that no one is talking about.

10 Hoarding Often Leads to Financial Difficulties

In extreme cases, hoarders become trapped in their homes. This happens because people continue to pile (or stack) things on top of each other. As one space fills with “junk,” items are moved closer and closer inward, allowing less and less space for the occupants.

With this type of hoarding, there can be very little sense of organization. If you think you have a hard time finding your keys, imagine looking through a hoarder’s house for a specific item. With a startling lack of organization, hoarders can lose important documents. This can include credit cards, bills, social security information, receipts, important mail, tax documents, and even paychecks. In some cases, mail may simply never get opened, leading to late fees, debt, and other negative outcomes.

Financial difficulties may also be attributed to excessive spending to accumulate the hoard. Many hoarders consider themselves thrifty, but their overly stuffed homes may say otherwise. While it may not be the first thing you think of when it comes to hoarding, hoarders often face financial difficulties because they cannot find the important items they need.

9 Obesity Is a Side Effect of Hoarding

Hoarders have the propensity to become obese; this is for a couple of different reasons:

The first is very practical; hoarders want to keep so many things in their homes, making their homes “shrink” in size, meaning that the usable space becomes smaller and smaller. In a home with less space to maneuver, hoarders are more likely to spend time sitting or moving around less. As hoarding increases, space decreases. These changes make weight gain and eventual obesity more likely.

The second reason obesity is often associated with hoarding is psychological. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is regularly associated with hoarding. These individuals may feel psychologically compelled to keep things other people might throw away. OCD is also associated with obesity. Both disorders deal directly with impulse control (or lack thereof).

8 Hoarding May Be a Sign of Trauma

Hoarding is not a habit that comes from nowhere; it is often linked to childhood. There are two primary underlying causes of hoarding:

  1. The first is trauma. Individuals who experienced abuse or other instability in their childhoods (or even later in life) are far more likely to develop hoarding habits.
  2. The second underlying cause is being the child of a hoarder. Children pick up habits from their parents. This is also true with hoarding; many hoarders pick up their habits from their parents or other family members they have lived with.

A side effect of hoarding that many people do not talk about is the underlying cause of the illness. If someone is hoarding, they likely have other psychological issues contributing to their habit.

7 Potential Links Between Hoarding and ADHD

As mentioned above, hoarding is often associated with various mental disorders. Hoarding is commonly associated with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). ADHD is a relatively common disorder. The primary symptoms associated with ADHD are inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. These three symptoms can increase the desire to hoard and make the resulting side effects even more severe.

Individuals with ADHD have difficulties prioritizing as well. So it is easy to see how ADHD can worsen hoarding habits. A rarely talked about (and often unknown) connection exists between hoarding and ADHD. In some cases, medication can help hoarders moderate their habits.

6 Hoarding Can Lead to Stress or Even Depression

For many people, letting go of something can be cathartic. It might be an old grudge or a sweatshirt that hasn’t fit you for years. However, this is the opposite approach of a hoarder.

Hoarders instead want to cling to their possessions, thinking that holding on to them may bring them happiness. All of these things (and their storage, cleanliness, etc.) can lead to added stress levels. It is harder to relax in an untidy environment; therefore, hoarders have a higher stress level than most.

Hoarding can also lead to isolation. After all, hoarders may be embarrassed to have company over. In extreme cases, they may not want to leave their house. Isolation and increased stress levels may cause some hoarders to suffer depression. Though not obvious, stress and depression are both clear side effects of hoarding habits.

5 Hoarding Can Create Legal Difficulties

Though they are not always aware of it, hoarders typically have significant troubles with home organization. This includes maintaining important documentation. It is hard enough for a typical person to keep up with taxes, insurance, wills, and other key documents. In a hoarder’s house, this is nearly impossible.

Due to psychological issues, sometimes hoarders will not ask for help locating these documents. In extreme scenarios, hoarders may lose track of the most important documents—a legal summons may be one of them. This can cause a hoarder to miss an important court date or jury duty.

Hoarders may also face legal action from landlords, neighbors, homeowners associations, and the like for the hoard’s unkemptness, smell, or lack of safety. Legal difficulties are a genuine side effect of hoarding, though they are not always the first thing to come to mind.

4 Hoarding Can Be Personally Unclean and Even Dangerous

From the outside, hoarding may seem “no big deal.” Sometimes it is even referred to dismissively. In reality, that is not the case. Hoarding is a big deal; it is a dangerous habit.

In many cases, hoarding houses are unsafe for living. This can be due to a general lack of cleaning, rotting food, unclean bathroom areas, mold, and low air quality. Any of these are serious hygiene concerns. In the worst cases, hoarders may even block parts of their homes. Hoarders may store things in bathtubs, showers, and even on top of toilets or refrigerators.

To an outsider, this may seem laughable. The unfortunate truth is that hoarders may pile up so many things that they block their entrance or exit from their homes, eliminating possible rescue routes. With so many papers and things around, the likelihood of a fire is much higher. The chance of tripping and injuring yourself is increased as well. It can be personally dangerous and unclean to hoard.

3 Hoarding Often Causes the Mistreatment of Pets

Hoarding can be personally dangerous and unsafe, as outlined above. However, it can be even more dangerous to innocent and lovable pets. After all, most pets stay indoors. This means breathing the same potentially dangerous air and drinking and eating at home. Not only is this amoral, but it is also often a crime, with the crime being as severe as a felony. When hoarders mistreat animals (including hoarding excess animals), they may have to:

  • Pay a fine
  • Move out of the home
  • Forfeit the animal(s) in question
  • Serve jail time

Improperly caring for or mistreating these animals is a sadly common, though often overlooked, side effect of unhealthy hoarding habits.

2 Hoarding Can Lead to Homelessness

When hoarding gets to a certain point, authorities (or landlords) can remove a hoarder from their home. The tenant may be removed if a property does not follow local rules and laws. This can even be the case if the hoarder is a homeowner, though the building may be condemned in that scenario. This is drastic, and authorities and landlords will generally try to avoid making this decision.

However, finding new housing can be very difficult once a hoarder has been removed from their home. Even homeless shelters tend to be less welcoming to those known to hoard. In the worst-case scenarios, hoarding can lead to a terrible side effect: homelessness.

1 Hoarding Leads to an Unsafe Environment for Children of All Ages

Ultimately, hoarding can be bad for children (and any other tenants that live in the hoarding house). Children are especially susceptible to the dangers of hoarding. In extreme scenarios, children may even be removed from a home if the home is determined to be unsafe.

Along with the physical risks of living in a hoarding house, children raised in this environment are more likely to repeat this behavior in the future. In other words, children pick up habits from their parents. This can be a great thing, but one thing that parents certainly don’t want to pass on is a hoarding habit. A side effect many people may not consider when it comes to hoarding is its impact on children.


Written by David Long

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