Is hoarding a sign of borderline personality disorder? (5 signs of a borderline hoarder)  

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Page last updated: 21/09/2022

In this article, we shall answer the question, “is hoarding a sign of borderline personality disorder?” and look at the signs and symptoms of a borderline personality hoarder. We shall look at the diagnosis of hoarding as a personality disorder according to the Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM IV). Finally, we shall look at the different ways a person with borderline personality can stop hoarding.

Is hoarding a sign of borderline personality disorder?

Yes, compulsive hoarding is mostly accompanied by comorbid disorders like depression, anxiety, and borderline personality disorder, among others. Compulsive hoarding is a disorder that is characterized by difficulty getting rid of possessions because they personalize/ humanize them. A person with a hoarding disorder gets anxious and distressed at the thought of getting rid of a possession.

A person with hoarding disorder might receive a gift wrapped in a box and keep the gift and the box. They perceive that the box will feel worthless if it is seen as garbage and therefore, they hold on to it. Hoarders’ homes and personal spaces are filled to the brim with clutter and items of different values. If the house is filled to the brim, they move stuff to their garage, porches and storage houses.

People with hoarding disorder hold on to the items as the items have an emotional significance, believe the items will be needed later, feel safe being surrounded by the items, or don’t want to waste them.

Relationship between hoarding and borderline personality disorder

The similarity between hoarding disorder and borderline personality disorder is that people suffering from both have negative personality traits of indecisiveness, poor socialization skills, instability, and difficulty being alone. People with BPD crave loving and lasting relationships, but their impulsiveness and frequent mood swings push people away. Most, therefore, end up having an excessive attachment to possessions or animals and acquiring useless items, among others.

Signs and symptoms of a borderline personality disorder hoarder

  • Trouble discarding, recycling, selling, or giving away things
  • Clutter or number of possessions making it difficult to use the rooms/house
  • Buy items or gain free things ‌you do not need
  • Trouble deciding when organizing, categorizing, or discarding
  • Moving things from one pile to another without letting go of items
  • Have poor relationships with family or friends
  • Excessive attachment to things
  • Stacking of magazines or junk
  • Difficulty organizing things
  • procrastination

Hoarding can start as early as the teenage years and get more noticeable with age. For many, hoarding becomes more problematic in older age, but the problem is usually well established by this time.

Why do people with borderline personality disorder hoard?

Borderline personality disorder hoarders keep items for the following reasons;

  • Indecisiveness of where to keep items so they just keep it instead of discarding them
  • They believe the items will be useful in the future
  • They think an item is too valuable to throw away
  • They perceive some items to be irreplaceable and put a sentimental value to them
  • Tey keep the items as a remembrance to someone or something
Is hoarding a sign of borderline personality disorder? (5 signs of a borderline hoarder)  

What causes hoarding in borderline personality disorder?

There are no specific causes of hoarding, but doctors have pointed some factors that can contribute to the development of the disorder. Research has shown that people with this disorder have association issues with their cognitive functioning that affect planning, attention, organization, problem solving, learning, and memory. The risk factors that can trigger the development of hoarding  include:

  • Brai injury
  • Having immediate relatives with a hoarding disorder
  • Buying things impulsively
  • Always accepting free items lik flyers and coupons
  • Traumatic life events
  • Having substance use disorder

How do you diagnose hoarding disorder?

Many people with Borderline Personality Disorder and hoarding rarely seek for helpon their own. It is therefore, important for loved ones to know the signs a dn syptoms of this disorder so as to help their significant other seek for treatment.

You as the loved one, is responsible for contacting health services when the afflicted person makes living conditions inhabitable and dangerous. In the case the person is hoarding animals,you can call animal protection services and ohter correct services.

For a diagnosis of hoarding disorder to be made, the following symptoms must be present:

  • Feeling distressed when they think about discarding any item
  • Having a strong feeling of saving items
  • The have living spaces that are cluttered with items
  • Persistent difficulty of getting rid of items, despite them having value or not

How borderlines can overcome hoarding

People with borderline personality disorder can stop hoarding by

  • Declutter for 10 minutes every day.
  • Clean up clutter immediately.
  • Read and respond to mail and emails immediately instead of procrastinating.
  • Throw away things you have not used in a year.
  • Seek treatment. A therapist will help you identify and resolve the root cause of your compulsive hoarding.

Hoarding is a mental disorder characterised by difficulty in getting rid of possessions, even those with little or no value. Failure to control hoarding leads to clutter, which can cause danger, and neglect of household cleanliness and personal hygiene.

What should a loved do about their loved one’s hoarding?

Unfortunately, there is very little you can do for a Borderline Personality hoarder, apart from recommending counseling. This is because, the person is mentally competent and also has the right to keep items that belong to them. As a loved one, you need to show empathy and respect their decisions. Most of them are ambivalent towards change.

You need to accept that ambivalence is normal and change is only possible when the person is ready. The following tips can help you deal with a loved one who has BPD and hoarding:

Respect their choice

The person has freedom of choice and the autonomy to what whatever they want with their house and personal space. Ask for their suggestions on the things they would like to change in their house. Engaging them on a discussion about the problem is bound to get results rather than reprimanding them and demanding that they clean their house/ get rid of things.

Do not argue with them

People naturally respond to arguments with defense. Raising your voice and reprimanding them for hoarding is likely to fall on deaf ears. Avoid arguments of what they should and should not do.

Gently help them recognize the problem

This works well for those who have agreed that they have a problem and have made a decision to change. Most make decisions to clear the clutter, but never get to actualize their wishes. It is important to keep reminding them gently of their goals for change.

Writing down short-term and long term goals can help you follow through with how much progress they are making. Resonate with them if their current habits will help them achieve their long-term goals.

Work on changing step-by-step

Trying to revert a hoarding habit takes time and effort.you need to be patient with your loved one as they try to change their habits. Professional counseling is vital at this point. A therapist will help the person identify their triggers, underlying conditions and also use CBT, which helps in changing negative thought patterns and behaviours to positive ones.

Employing an attitude of empathy, respect and help will make discussions easier and help the person open up about any difficulties they are experiencing as they strive to make positive changes.

Treatment for Borderline Personality Disorder hoarders

Medication

There is no medication for BPD but medication can be given for the symptoms that manifest, i.e. antipsychotics, antidepressants and anxiolytics. Antidepressant, which increase serotonin levels have been shown to cause improvement in compulsive hoarders. It is important to note that this medication does not work for all hoarders.

Therapy

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy will help you respond to emotional situations with positive coping mechanisms and with reason and proper judgment. This will reduce seeing things in black and white (polarizing).

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) helps a hoarder think more clearly abut their habits and their possessions. It also involves a therapist going to the hoarder’s home and help them think clearly and have realistic thought about their possessions. It helps change negative thought patterns, find better coping mechanisms when confronting fear and any stressful situations.

Hospitalization

This is necessary if you are experiencing extreme symptoms like suicidal thoughts and attempts, or hallucinations and delusions that are affecting your daily functioning and relationship with others.

Conclusion

In this article, we answered the question “is hoarding a symptom of Borderline Personality Disorder?” and looked at what hoarding disorder is. We have also looked at the relationship between hoarding and Borderline Personality Disorder, the signs and symptoms of hoarding, the causes and the reasons why people with Borderline Personality Disorder hoard.

We have also looked at how borderlines can overcome hoarding and what a loved one should do for a borderline hoarder. Finally, we have looked at the treatment options for a borderline personality disorder hoarder.

If you have any questions or comments, please let us know in the comment section below.

Frequently Asked Questions: borderline personality disorder and hoarding

What personality disorder is hoarding?

Hoarding is a disorder that may be present on its own or as a symptom of another disorder. Those most often associated with hoarding are obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and depression.

What is the primary symptom associated with hoarding disorder?

Difficulty discarding and clutter because of a perceived thought of saving the items. They also have associated problems like perfectionism, indecisiveness, disorganization, and procrastination.

Is hoarding a symptom of borderline personality disorder?

Yes, hoarding can be a symptom of borderline personality disorder. Hoarding is mostly accompanied by another comorbid disorder like depression, anxiety, and obsessive compulsive disorder.

Can a hoarder be cured?

Many people show significant improvement, but the majority still have hoarding disorder by the end of treatment. These conditions are classified under terminal illnesses which are not curable but manageable.

Citations

NHS. (July 17, 2019). Causes- borderline personality disorder. Retrieved from Causes – Borderline personality disorder – NHS

Sharma, V. (July 4, 2021). Signs of a Borderline Hoarder and Steps to Overcome. Author Vinod. Retrieved from:Signs of a Borderline Hoarder and Steps to Overcome | by Vinod Sharma

Promises Behavioural Health, (March 30, 2010). Hoarding: a compulsive mental disorder. Retrieved from https://www.promises.com/addiction-blog/hoarding-a-compulsive-mental-disorder/

Cleveland Clinic, Hoarding Disorder. Retrieved from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/17682-hoarding-disorder 

NHS. Hoarding disorder. NHS. Retrieved from: https://slam.nhs.uk/hoarding-disorder