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Hoarding is highly prevalent (approximately 2-5% of the population – that is potentially over 1.2 million people in the UK alone) and, when severe, is associated with substantial functional disability and represents a great burden for the sufferers, their families and society. Click here for a recent BBC Breakfast report on hoarding.

In June 2018, the World Health Organisation (WHO) published a revised edition of International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11), which now includes Hoarding Disorder as a distinct mental health condition.

“Hoarding disorder is characterised by accumulation of possessions due to excessive acquisition of, or difficulty discarding possessions, regardless of their actual value.

 “Excessive acquisition is characterised by repetitive urges or behaviours related to amassing or buying items. Difficulty discarding possessions is characterised by a perceived need to save items and distress associated with discarding them.

 “Accumulation of possessions results in living spaces becoming cluttered to the point that their use or safety is compromised.

“The symptoms result in significant distress or significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning.”

Why do people hoard?

It is well documented that hoarding tendencies can be triggered by certain life events. Research indicates that trauma, as well as learnt behaviour from being raised in a hoarded home, can contribute to hoarding tendencies. The death of a loved one, divorce, eviction or losing one’s possessions in a fire can all contribute.

Other examples include:

ADHD, OCD, depression and autism, amongst other mental health issues, can all contribute to hoarding behaviours.

Hoarding Disorder is a mental health concern that manifests itself physically and impacts not only on other family members, children and pets, but also has social, health and safety implications for neighbours and the wider local community.

Risk of fire

Hoarders can fill entire rooms from floor to ceiling, leaving themselves the minimum space in which to live. This retention of property presents a real fire risk, and makes it far harder for firefighters to be able to tackle any blaze.

The Fire and Rescue Service can’t solve the problem of hoarding; however, where we know there is an issue, we can work with other agencies to try and reduce the risk of fire. Evidence from across the country shows that:

By offering Safe & Well visits, and installing smoke alarms, we can work with hoarders to try and make their homes more fire safe – take a look at our guidance. If they want help in dealing with their hoarding compulsion, then we can refer them to other agencies for that support.

However, we know that not every hoarder is ready to take that step and we want to ensure that they are as fire safe as possible, whatever the circumstances of their home.

DWFRS recognises the issues that hoarders and their families have when trying to deal with hoarding behaviour, which is why Hoarding Behaviour Groups have been set up with our partner agencies to try and help understand the complex issue of hoarding.  For details, click on the link below.

Poole Hoarding Group

More help is available

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