What is Disposophobia? (A Comprehensive Guide)

In this blog we will discuss the causes, symptoms and treatments of Disposophobia.

Disposophobia is an irrational fear of letting go of stuff and a yearning for collecting things even after they have lost their use and are no more effective.

Regardless of their value these items hold significance for the person suffering from Disposophobia. 

The living spaces and houses of these people are cramped and there is no place to move around.

Counter tops, tables, floor are all cluttered and even the windows are blocked by the stacking. Person suffering from Disposophobia will make sure that not even a single item is displaced or discarded. 

It so happens that due to the vigilance of their obsessive thoughts they are vigilant in keeping a close eye on all their hoarded stuff.

Even if a single or few items are moved, they would know and suffer acute anxiety.

Disposophobia is an intense fear of parting with collected stuff from over the years, stuff that is irrelevant and cannot be used anymore.

The emotional attachment with each item and the fear of losing a part of themselves on parting with the stuff, is magnanimous.

Causes of Disposophobia

As is common in specific phobias, the cause Disposophobia may lie deep in the person’s childhood or its onset may be due to an environmental factor.

Genetics also plays a pivotal role in the cause of developing Disposophobia. 

Disposing off things causes anxiety in the person from Disposophobia.

He / She does not want to let go of things from over the years, because for them each item holds a special meaning, an emotional bonding element. 

They feel that if they let go or discard the things from the past, they will have to move forward and might forget the important people or events that were a part of their existence.

This is a common phobia that is interspersed with the thoughts that lead to depression in certain people.

People suffering from Disposophobia might also suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and this recurrent thought of not letting go compels them to keep on hoarding.

Their emotional environment is electrifying and upon any item being discarded, they will suffer a full-blown panic attack.

Other causes can be as follow:

• Learned behavior

• Traumatic experiences

Etiological Models of Disposophobia

1. Biological (Genetic) Model

Genetics also determines how a person reacts and feels. Therefore, people inherit fears and phobias as well from their families.

The brain cells (neurons) release certain chemicals called neurotransmitters.

Serotonin and Dopamine are two neurotransmitters that in depleted states can cause anxiety like symptoms.

2. Psychodiagnostics Model

If a person has suffered from a traumatic experience in early childhood it can have a severe dire impact on his later life.

A childhood traumatic experience could be where children experienced a negative impact of events due to a change in their life.

This may leave a long lasting impression. 

3. Behavioral Model

According to this model, irrational fears  may be caused through behaviors that are learned by replication.

Children often replicate unique behaviors of their adults, parents or a favorite aunt or uncle.

If a family member is already suffering from anxiety or is scared of one or another thing, then chances are higher that only by observing this, the child may develop fears.

Symptoms of Disposophobia

To avoid the experience of anxiety itself the individual may develop Disposophobia, so as to avoid the very cause of the uncomfortable condition. 

  • Accumulating items that are not required or for which there’s no space
  • indecisiveness, perfectionism, avoidance, procrastination, cannot plan or organize
  • need to save the hoarded items, anguish at the thought of discarding them
  • continuous  difficulty in discarding out or parting with things, regardless of actual value
  • cluttering so much so that the rooms become unusable
  • Building up of food items and trash
  • Not washing or wasting things
  • Deriving security from or around the hoarded items 
  • Getting sentimental value and emotional around things

Physical Symptoms

These are intense and can begin without any prior warning.

The person suffering from Disposophobia experiences the full physical intensity of either all of these or some of these in combination with others.

  • hot flashes or chills
  • headaches
  • sweating
  • trembling
  • shortness of breath a choking sensation
  • rapid heartbeat (tachycardia)
  • nausea
  • dizziness
  • feeling faint
  • numbness 
  • dry mouth
  • ringing in ears
  • confusion 
  • hyperventilation
  • raised blood pressure
  • Bizarre behavior

The Psychological Symptoms

During panic attack the person suffering from Disposophobia may experience the following

  • fear of losing 
  • feelings of dread
  • fear of being ridiculed 
  • Socially withdrawn
  • fear of losing control
  • fear of self harm
  • fear of losing memories
  • self-blame
  • feeling of hopelessness
  • feeling of disconnect
  • confusion
  • lack of concentration
  • anger
  • irritability
  • moodswings
  • afraid of rejection

Treatments of Disposophobia

Disposophobia can be treated through different treatments.

These include Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), Exposure Therapy, Neuro Linguistic Program (NLP), Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction MBSR) and forms of meditation.

1) Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)

In CBT the therapist helps the client to amend his thoughts so that a desirable behavior can be achieved.

This therapy is effective, because if the thoughts or cognitions alter then there will be a lasting impact on behavior.

The therapist helps the client to discover the reason for this thought, his behavior in regards to changes in life.

This therapy is goal oriented and short termed. Therefore, the results are seen soon. It changes the way a person thinks and feels.

CBT does not focus on probing the past to resolve current problems, rather it concentrates on the present situation. 

Our thoughts determine how we act or react to certain stimuli and situations.

Therefore, negative thoughts bring about a negative behavior response or an undesirable behavior.

Whereas, positive thoughts propagate desirable and healthy attitude and response.

Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) is a form of CBT and designed by Albert Ellis. According to Ellis, “people are not disturbed by things but rather by their view of things.” This is what subjective perspective is. 

2) Exposure Therapy 

It is one of the most frequently used ways of treating patients with Disposophobia.

In this therapy, the patient is exposed to the source of his fear over a certain span of time.

To begin with the therapy, the therapist exposes the patient to the least triggering stimuli.

As the therapy progresses and the patient is able to control his anxious feelings, imagery can be used to take the treatment a step further.

In this part of the treatment the patient is asked to visualize/imagine a situation that makes him anxious.

During this process of imagery, one actually feels being in that particular situation or place, experiencing various senses.

 Once the person successfully, without feeling anxious clears this step of the therapy, he is then exposed to real life situations.

While the patient is being exposed to different intensities of stimuli during the various stages of therapy, the therapist simultaneously teaches them coping exercises.

These include, breathing techniques or muscle relaxation methods to lower their anxiety, when in an actual fear/anxiety causing situation.

This teaches them how to remain calm when exposed to the fear stimuli.

Before actually starting the exposure therapy, the therapist needs to figure out the intensity of the patient’s fear, as to deduce whether they will be able to undergo this treatment, without any physical or psychological harm caused to them during the exposure processes. 

3) Neuro Linguistic Program (NLP)

In this therapy the client is asked to 

  1. Access the phobia in a safe environment.
  2. Help them to replay the phobia along with happy emotions.
  3. Disassociate from the phobia.

4) Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)

MBSR involves being aware of one’s own thoughts, feelings and reducing the interference from around the environment.

We do not pay attention to how we process the various stimuli that affect us. 

We do not process the way our bodies feel and respond, there is no focus on our thoughts and how these thoughts are influencing our emotions. 

In MBSR, the client is ‘woken up’ to actually experience the various senses. ‘Focus’ is the keyword!

In Disposophobia treatment, the client is made conscious to pay attention to his thoughts when he is thinking of what he is afraid of.

Awareness helps to alleviate the stress symptoms. 

5) Meditation

For meditation to be effective during treatment, the mind is cleared off all the clutter of random thoughts.

The mind and body are made to be ‘in sync’ with each other, so that the feared stimulus does not invoke a negative thought.

The client will meditate during the thoughts of death and concentrate on his breathing patterns in the presence of the feared stimulus. 

6) Self-Help Groups

Self Help groups are an effective type of therapy, in which the client does not find himself as a lone sufferer.

These groups are individuals who are afflicted with the same types of phobias. They come together to share their thoughts, experiences and their coping strategies.

This also helps in developing a ‘sense of I am not the only one’ suffering.

7) Changing Lifestyle

Breaking down the dullness of the daily, helps break down anxiety as well. 

• Take up jogging or go for daily walks:

Developing a walk routine can damper the way our negative thoughts control our behavior.

• Indulging in an exercise regime:

Vigorous exercise like aerobics has proved to reduce or alleviate the symptoms of stress and anxiety. Exercise helps the mind to cope with stress and stressful situations better.

This is what the American Psychological Association has to say about inducting exercise to eliminate stress or phobias.

• Altering eating and drinking habits:

Cutting down on fatty foods and caffeine can improve self-image, that in turn leads to a raised self-esteem.

This finally diminishes the symptoms of stress to a bare minimum. With high intake of caffeine, the body resembles a ‘fight or flight’ response, thus giving way to anxiety.

• Improving the sleep cycle:

When we get proper rest, our concentration improves. 

8) Psychiatric Medication 

Anxiolytics (anti-anxiety drugs)

These should only be taken after the consultation with the doctor and shouldn’t be initiated or discontinued as per personal discretion.


These medicines are not only used to treat depression, but also to alleviate the symptoms.

Medicines alone might not be as effective, but if used in conjunction with therapies then the results will be better. 

9)  Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

This kind of therapy is used to regulate the emotions. A technique called “half-smiling” is used where the client is asked to lift the corners of his mouth when the feared thought comes to his mind.

Apart from this the mind is to be trained to refrain from thinking about the painful stimulus.

Coping Ahead is another technique in DBT that requires the client to sit quietly and think of the feared situation and strategize what he will do.

We are always here to answer if you have any queries.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the 5 levels of hoarding?

Five levels of hoarding were created by The National Study Group on Compulsive Disorganization

– Clutter filling bathrooms and kitchen.

– At least four too many pets, per local regulations.

– Noticeable human feces.

– Rotting food on surfaces and inside a non-working refrigerator.

 What is the cause of hoarding disorder?

Genetics, trauma to the brain or people suffering from depression may suffer from Disposophobia.

What mental disorder causes hoarding?

Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and depression are likely to cause Disposophobia. 

Is a messy house a sign of mental illness?

Messy house may not always be a sign of mental illness, until and unless it is persistent.

Are hoarders depressed?

Hoarders may seem to be depressed if the depression seems to continue with the hoarding behavior.

Titles to Read

by Jonathan Grayson  | May 6, 2014

by Sally M. Winston PsyD and Martin N. Seif PhD | Mar 1, 2017

by Simon A. Rego  | Apr 20, 2016

by Mark Williams, Danny Penman, et al. | Nov 13, 2012

by Ann Swanson  | Jan 8, 2019

Examples of other interesting phobias



  • www.psychtimes.com
  • www.fearof.net
  • www.amazon.com
  • www.exploringyourmind.com
  • www.albertellis.com