People with ADHD are likely to adopt hoarding behaviours and mental addictions to items – potentially leading to a serious impact on their quality of life
ADHD, or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, is a condition which can make people restless, unable to concentrate, act without thinking, develop poor organisational skills, and more.
The disorder can lead to distress or difficulties in everyday life and can contribute to depression and anxiety.
Researchers found that almost one in five people with ADHD displayed clinically significant levels of hoarding, which implies that there may be a population of adults struggling with hoarding behaviour and ADHD consequences which are previously unknown.
As a recognised condition, hoarding behaviour can involve excessive accumulation, difficulties discarding and excessive clutter.
Excessive difficulty letting go of items, a perceived need to save them
Often focusing on the hoarding habits of older women, previous research into the disorder has mainly focused those who have identified themselves as hoarders and have looked for help with it later in life.
This new study was conducted with 88 recruited participants from an adult ADHD clinic run by the Cambridge and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust, finding that 19% of this ADHD group displayed clinically significant hoarding symptoms.
The participants were in their 30s on average, and there was an equal gender split – and participants varied in hoarding severity. Amongst the remaining 81%, the researchers found greater hoarding severity, but not to a degree that significantly impaired their lives, compared to the study’s control group.
Asking the same questions, researchers analysed ADHD symptoms and impulsivity, levels of hoarding and clutter, obsessive compulsive severity, perfectionism, depression and anxiety, and everyday function.
In a closely-matched group of 90 adults from the general population, without an ADHD diagnosis, they found that only 2% of this control group exhibited clinically significant hoarding symptoms.
They then replicated this with a larger online sample of 220 UK adults to see if similar patterns were found, and similarly only 3% of this group exhibited symptoms.
More research is needed for ADHD to identify hoarding habits
Dr Morein, Associate Professor in Psychology at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), said: “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.
“Overall, we found that people who had been diagnosed with ADHD had a higher likelihood of also having hoarding symptoms. 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.
“Our findings also indicate that Hoarding Disorder should be routinely assessed in individuals with ADHD, as they do not typically disclose associated difficulties despite these potentially impairing their everyday lives.
“Likewise, it is possible that many people who are currently being treated for Hoarding Disorder might also have undiagnosed ADHD.
“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.”