Hoarding and Shame

Working as a therapist, it is not unusual for me to hear clients share stories where they are experiencing feelings of shame, guilt, and sadness. Many clients express feelings of hopelessness and helplessness at least some of the time. But, there is also a sense of shared experience. Therapy is seen as a safe place where they can explore those feelings. Hoarding disorder can test this idea.

When working with clients who hoard, learning about the hoarding can take more trust than you might expect. I have worked with clients for years before they are ready to share what is happening in their homes. Clients who have felt safe disclosing trauma, substance abuse, and their eating disorder have struggled to talk about their hoarding. All the same, it is an equally important issue that impacts them daily. Hoarding may be, to them, their most shameful behavior.

Hoarding Disorder: Statistics

Research shows that individuals experiencing hoarding disorder often feel judged and isolated from friends and family. This happens at rates that are even higher than those experiencing schizophrenia. As a result, it is not surprising that hoarding is a secret that is closely kept.

Hoarding disorder affects between 2 and 5% of the population. It is more common than many people are aware, and there are levels of severity as with any illness. Often times, when working with clients, they will reassure me, “I’m not like the show. I’m not that bad.” I always try to emphasize that no matter the hoard, I will not judge them. This is crucial.

Many times, before the work on addressing the hoarding can begin, there has to be a clear understanding that there is no judgment or critique of what is happening in their home. Rather, there is an understanding and acceptance of the internal distress and frustration hoarding causes. Whether their hoarding is causing health problems, issues with environmental safety, or is a source of embarrassment, the primary concern is the pain it is causing and how to address it.

Hoarding disorder also does not exist in isolation or as a stand-alone illness; rather, it is significantly correlated with anxiety, depression, OCD, and ADHD. These co-morbid disorders can often be the primary reason clients seek out support initially, and clients may be hesitant or reticent to start to address the hoarding, itself. Further, for many, there is a significant discrepancy between their external presentation- professional and put together- and their deeply protected, often completely hidden from others, personal space. When all of these factors are combined, it is clear why hoarding disorder is such a hidden illness and why, for those experiencing it, it can feel so hard to overcome.

What Can Be Done?

In September of 2017, a new group protocol was released to address hoarding disorder in a group format. Chrysalis Center is excited to be among the first offering this “Declutter Class”. The group provides resources, strategies, and hope for change with hoarding disorder. This treatment is research driven, proven to provide results, and addresses 7 “targets” or areas of functioning to reduce the impact of hoarding and improve functioning, overall. While seeking treatment and support for hoarding can be difficult, we are hopeful that this group will offer a safe, non-judgmental space where hoarding can be addressed effectively.


For Follow Up

If you are interested in the group or would like more information, please contact Rachel Hendricks, LCSW at (910) 790-9500. You can also reach her via email at

Rachel Hendricks, LCSW specializes in working with clients who have had their eating disorder for ten or more years, clients with co-occurring substance use behaviors, as well as working with couples and families. She facilitates two groups: Motivation to Change and Declutter Class, and she is currently accepting referrals for both. Rachel is excited to be making the transition to Wilmington from the Center for Eating Disorders in Baltimore, Maryland. She looks forward to continuing her reputation for providing excellent clinical care in the field of behavioral health.

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