Hoarding linked to ADHD: 1 in 5 patients struggle with behavior

CAMBRIDGE, United Kingdom — Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) often involves fidgeting, lots of energy, and difficulty concentrating. However, new research from Anglia Ruskin University connects ADHD with hoarding behavior in adults. One in five people diagnosed with ADHD showed clear signs of “significant hoarding.” They suggest there may even be a “hidden population” of adults with ADHD silently struggling with hoarding habits.

Everyone has a few keepsakes from their past they don’t want to throw out. However, Hoarding Disorder is when items and clutter accumulate to excessive levels. Left untreated and unrecognized, Hoarding Disorder can wreak havoc on a person’s everyday life and contribute heavily to depression and anxiety.

“Hoarding Disorder is much more than simply collecting too many possessions. People with diagnosed Hoarding Disorder have filled their living areas with so many items and clutter that it impacts their day-to-day functioning leading to a poorer quality of life, anxiety, and depression,” says study leader Dr. Sharon Morein, Associate Professor in Psychology at Anglia Ruskin University, in a media release.

Until now, most research on Hoarding Disorder focused on older women who self-identified themselves as hoarders and voluntarily sought professional help. However, this new study actively recruited 88 people from an adult ADHD clinic.

 Adults with ADHD showed some type of hoarding behavior

The researchers found 19% of ADHD adults in the study had “clinically significant” hoarding symptoms. On average, this group was in their mid-30s, but there was no difference between genders. While the remaining 81% of participants generally led normal lives, they showed greater hoarding tendencies than a control group of non-ADHD adults.

The control group for this study had 90 adults, with only two percent showing any signs of worrying hoarding symptoms. Researchers asked all study subjects across all experimental cohorts a series of questions on ADHD symptoms, impulsivity, hoarding/clutter tendencies, depression, perfectionism, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive severity, and everyday functioning.

A larger online sample of 220 local non-ADHD adults validated the initial results. Similarly, only three percent showed hoarding tendencies.

“This is important because it demonstrates that hoarding doesn’t just affect people later in life, who are typically the focus of much of the research so far into Hoarding Disorder,” Dr. Morein explains. The findings also suggest that Hoarding Disorder could indicate ADHD, and may not be known because it is not a conventional symptom.

“Greater awareness amongst clinicians and people with ADHD about the link between ADHD and hoarding could also lead to more effective long-term management, as hoarding often gradually worsens with time,” Dr. Morein says.

The study is available in the Journal of Psychiatric Research.

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