Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a mental health condition characterized by inattention and hyperactivity.

Hoarding, also known as hoarding disorder, is a mental health condition characterized by the collection of items with the inability to discard them.

While ADHD and hoarding are separate mental health conditions, research suggests that people with ADHD may be at an increased risk for hoarding tendencies. In fact, according to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America (ADAA), ADHD is listed as one of the conditions most commonly associated with hoarding.

In this article, we’ll explore the connection between ADHD and hoarding disorder, including which treatments are available and how to seek help for both ADHD and hoarding.

Traditionally, hoarding has been associated with a mental health condition called obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

OCD is a condition characterized by obsessions that lead to compulsive behaviors. However, recent research suggested that hoarding may be more closely linked to ADHD than OCD.

Decision-making issues

Both ADHD and hoarding can be defined by difficulties with executive functioning.

People with inattentive-type ADHD often have a difficult time focusing, paying attention, and making decisions. Likewise, people with hoarding disorder tend to demonstrate increased inattention, impulsivity, and inability to make decisions.

ADHD, OCD, and hoarding

In a 2010 study, researchers examined the relationship between ADHD and OCD, as well as ADHD and hoarding behaviors. They observed 155 participants with childhood-onset OCD, between the ages of 4 and 82, for symptoms of ADHD and hoarding.

Results of the study indicated that over 20 percent of participants exhibited symptoms of ADHD, with 11.8 percent of these participants having a definite diagnosis. The results also revealed that 41.9 percent of these participants with ADHD also had hoarding behaviors, compared to only 29.2 percent of participants without ADHD.

A 2011 study further examined the potential relationship between symptoms of hoarding, OCD, and ADHD. In this study, 87 participants were chosen: 32 participants experienced hoarding disorder, 22 participants experienced non-hoarding OCD, and 33 participants had no history of psychiatric diagnosis or treatment.

The results found that general emotional distress was predictive of hoarding symptoms. In addition, ADHD symptoms — defined by inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity — significantly increased prediction of hoarding, while OCD symptoms didn’t.

According to the researchers, symptoms of inattentiveness showed the strongest correlation with hoarding.

What it could mean

Although both studies mentioned above were relatively small, the results suggested there may be a stronger relationship between ADHD and hoarding than between OCD and hoarding.

However, given that ADHD and OCD are considered comorbid, or coexisitng, conditions, there may be some overlap between the three conditions.

You might be curious if other comorbid conditions to ADHD have ties to hoarding, such as dyslexia or stuttering. There’s little research on the link between these. While dyslexia commonly accompanies ADHD, more research is needed in this area to determine if hoarding is also connected to speech or language conditions.

Research surrounding hoarding and ADHD is relatively new, and there’s a lot we don’t know yet.

In studies that investigate the link between ADHD and hoarding, sometimes it’s difficult to distinguish when ADHD is truly comorbid with hoarding disorder. In some cases, people with hoarding disorder may demonstrate problems with attention, but they might not actually have ADHD.

As well, many of the studies on these two conditions include other comorbid conditions. This can potentially influence the results.

For example, people with both ADHD and OCD might not be representative of those with hoarding disorders who have ADHD, but not OCD.

Finally, there are many core features of ADHD, like impulsivity and inattentiveness, that also appear outside an ADHD diagnosis. Research has yet to determine if these specific traits may have more of an impact on the development of hoarding than the actual disorder of ADHD.

People whose ADHD is defined primarily by problems with attention or decision-making may have an increased risk for developing hoarding tendencies.

Here are some tips for how to prevent your ADHD from turning into hoarding:

  • Create a schedule for cleaning and decluttering. ADHD can make it difficult to prioritize tasks, so creating an organizational schedule can help you keep up on tasks, like cleaning and decluttering.
  • Try different methods of decluttering. Decluttering can come in many shapes and forms, from simple spring-cleaning sessions to more detailed methods, such as the Konmari method.
  • Hire someone to help you sort through items. Hoarding tendencies can become overwhelming, and, sometimes, professional help is a great way to sort through larger amounts of personal items.
  • Seek therapy and treatment for your ADHD. Without addressing the underlying behaviors that lead to hoarding tendencies, it may be more difficult to keep your home clean and decluttered.

If you’re concerned that your ADHD may be turning into hoarding, schedule an appointment with a mental health professional to discuss it in more detail.

While ADHD and hoarding are separate conditions, both benefit from traditional treatment options.

Treatment options for these conditions may include:

  • Therapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a common treatment option for mental health conditions, such anxiety and depression. CBT is also useful for hoarding, as it can help process the emotions that drive hoarding behaviors, like negative thought patterns and processes. Behavioral therapy can also help people with ADHD adjust their behaviors and thought patterns to help reduce their symptoms.
  • Medications. Medication options for ADHD include both stimulants and nonstimulants. However, stimulants are the most commonly prescribed class of medication for ADHD. While there aren’t specific medications for treating hoarding disorder, other medications, like selective-serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), may be prescribed alongside other treatments.

The connection between ADHD and hoarding is not as commonly discussed as it should be. If you have both of these conditions, schedule an appointment with a healthcare professional to discuss what treatment options may be available to you.

Peer support groups offer a way for individuals with mental health conditions to find other people with their condition. Many groups also offer important resources for treatment from local professionals who specialize in these conditions.

If you or a loved one is experiencing ADHD, hoarding, or a similar condition, like Diogenes syndrome, consider reaching out to these organizations to find support groups in your area:

  • Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD). This is a national organization that offers resources and support for individuals with ADHD. You can find CHADD’s support group directory here.
  • The International OCD Foundation (IOCDF). This is another national organization that offers education and resources for people living with OCD, including those with hoarding disorder. You can find IOCDF’s support group directory here.

Consider also reaching out to a medical professional, therapist, or other mental health professional for more information on where you can find support for your condition.

Hoarding has traditionally been linked to OCD. However, research from the last decade suggests there may be a closer link between hoarding and ADHD. Underlying problems with executive function, specifically attention and decision-making, are linked to both ADHD and hoarding.

Therapy, medication, and behavioral changes can help improve the symptoms of these conditions and greatly increase quality of life.

If you’re concerned about the connection between ADHD and hoarding — whether for yourself or a loved one — reach out to a medical professional to discuss potential interventions.