A little-understood mental health issue finally being recognised

Mental health really matters and so today I want to write about a significant mental health issue which I have encountered in my work as an MP. It affects people in what should be the haven of their home but is little understood.

Hoarding disorder is estimated to affect one in 40 adults, with older people more likely to suffer. These include people across all socio-economic and cultural groups and impacts both men and women at similar rates.

While most of us have a picture of hoarding from reality TV programmes, that type of often exploitative television does little to help understanding of this serious condition. Our national media should seek advice from experts including clinical psychologists about the portrayal of people with hoarding problems and desist from using mental health problems to entertain and shock the public.

For a start we need to ditch the term “hoarder” and stop othering and stigmatising people. Hoarding disorder is characterised by accumulation of possessions due to excessive acquisition and difficulty discarding possessions, regardless of their actual value.

This excessive acquisition can be characterised by repetitive urges related to amassing or buying items. Difficulty discarding possessions is characterised by a perceived need to save items and distress associated with letting them go.