Difficulties concentrating can influence our need to hold onto possessions. In this Verywell Mind article, Mindpath Health’s Rashmi Parmar, MD, describes the connection and how it can challenge treatment.
It can be challenging to manage ADHD due to difficulties with concentration. Now, a study published in Journal of Psychiatric Research found inattention may be a predictor of challenges related to hoarding.
This study was based on self-reports of ADHD, hoarding disorder and OCD-related symptoms from ADHD Clinic participants, as compared to a control group of similar age, gender, and education levels, and clinically significant hoarding symptoms were found in 20% of ADHD patients.
Treating ADHD may address hoarding
A psychiatrist with Mindpath Health, Rashmi Parmar, MD, says, “The study highlights an interesting link between ADHD and hoarding disorder, a combination that we are not inclined to look for clinically but definitely warrants further attention based on the findings of the study.”
Dr. Parmar explains, “The idea that ADHD and hoarding disorder are linked is not a commonly known fact. When you consider both these conditions, it is not hard to understand how one can influence the other. Both these conditions involve the core symptoms of disorganization, inattention, executive dysfunction and some impulsivity.”
Hoarding disorder is a type of a mental illness in which a person has persistent difficulty discarding or parting with their possessions or belongings regardless of their actual value, according to Dr. Parmar.
Commonly hoarded items include household things like newspapers, magazines, and plastic bottles, but Dr. Parmar notes that it can also include situations in which a person has a hard time passing up bargain finds at thrift stores or may collect things of a unique nature.
Over time, accumulated things create clutter, Dr. Parmar notes that it can lead to family discord, health issues, reduced living space, financial burden, socially isolative behavior, inability to function, etc.
Dr. Parmar explains, “The predominantly inattentive subtype of ADHD has the strongest link with hoarding disorder according to prior research done in this area. People who are hoarders usually struggle with impaired decision making, planning, and organizing things.”
Similarly, treating underlying anxiety and mood disorders may result in some improvement of inattention symptoms, according to Dr. Parmar. “Both these conditions can go undiagnosed for a long time, partly due to lack of awareness and insight into these conditions,” she says.
Challenges with functioning can impact decision-making
Autistic psychotherapist who specializes in ADHD, neurodivergence, and autism, Sharon Kaye-O’Connor, LCSW, explains that if someone has trouble switching tracks, getting started on a project, or making decisions, as with an ADHD diagnosis, tasks can become even more difficult and time-consuming.
“The task of organizing, decluttering, or getting rid of things is a whole complex process that involves making multiple decisions that can feel overwhelming and sometimes impossible,” says Kaye-O’Connor.
Many questions arise when faced with the possibility of getting rid of something. “Have I used this in a while? Will I need this in the future? Does this have sentimental value?” she says.
Those questions do not even include if regret will follow, so the process of deciding what to do with even one single item can bring up many feelings that can become overwhelming.
Hoarding disorder can be difficult to treat
With hoarding disorder, Julia Chamberlain MS, INHC, LMHC, notes that an individual exhibits an inability to discard or let go of tangible items, which results in an unrestricted accumulation over time. “This poses a threat to hygiene, fire hazard safety, and other health concerns,” she says.
Treatment for ADHD can often result in a decrease of associated symptoms such as inattention, according to Chamberlain. “This would offset the risk of developing hoarding behaviors,” she says.
Since hoarding usually develops in adulthood, Chamberlain notes that this could contribute to early detection and prevention.
Chamberlain explains, “Many individuals with hoarding disorder do not feel that it is a problem and therefore are resistant to treatment. For in-home providers, sometimes, additional service professionals such as clean-up/hazmat teams are needed to aid in cleaning the home due to safety hazards depending on the severity of the hoarding.”
Read the full Verywell Mind article with sources.