Ask the Experts: Compulsive hoarding

Ask the Raffles Medical Group Experts


My mother likes to keep a lot of things like newspapers, old clothes and empty bottles. When I asked her to throw away some stuff she would vehemently refuse. I had thrown out some of her stuff before and she got very upset and angry with me. However, I find it difficult to live in this hazardous environment. We cannot walk around without tripping on something. What can I do?


Your mother’s behaviour appears to be suggestive of what mental health professionals would term as “compulsive hoarders.” Compulsive hoarders cannot differentiate between what is valuable and what is not. They just accumulate “stuff” that eventually incapacitated in their own homes. Yet they continue to add to their collections with no willingness to discard any of it. They become angry at the mere suggestion of getting rid of these items that they’ve held onto for years. They often do not see their problem and thus would resist treatment.

It is advisable that family members first consult professional help without the sick person being involved. And from the initial discussion, they would be able to receive advice and strategies as to how to get their family member into treatment.

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