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One in 50 people in Singapore will display hoarding behaviour in their lifetime, a study conducted in 2010 by the Research Division in IMH has found out. The study also found that 0.8 per cent of the 6,616 respondents surveyed had displayed hoarding behaviour in the past 12 months. 


Q: Why does one hoard?

People hoard for a variety of reasons, and not all of them are caused by mental illness. Some mental illness can have hoarding as one of the presenting symptoms. For instance, a person with schizophrenia may hear voices or hallucinations commanding him or her to collect items. However, most of the time, there is no identifiable underlying mental illness that causes hoarding.

Q: When does hoarding become a problem that requires one to seek treatment?

According to the classification in the DSM 5, a person with Hoarding Disorder :

• Has great difficulty discarding or parting with possessions, regardless of their actual value
• Experiences distress when discarding the items due to the perceived need to save the items
• Accumulates items until they congest and clutter living areas
• Shows significant social and occupational impairment, a lack of self-care and increasingly unable to cope with daily living which inevitably affects self and others

When hoarding affects the person’s functioning, it warrants intervention.

Q: Is hoarding behaviour treatable?

Is there a need to treat such behaviour? The treatability depends on whether the behaviour is caused by an underlying mental illness. If it is, the illness could be managed with therapy or medication, which in turn can help to control the hoarding behaviour. However, not all hoarding cases are caused by an underlying mental illness. Sometimes, the management of the underlying mental illness also may not help the hoarding behaviour. Many persons who hoard will not seek help as they do not see it as a problem. The majority of patients come to our attention because they are highlighted by our community partners such as Housing & Development Board, grassroots organisations or were brought in by their family. These are cases where a person’s hoarding habits have encroached into common areas and are affecting other residents.

Q: How does IMH help neighbours or families affected by someone who hoards?

 The team manning the Mental Health Helpline (MHH) regularly engages community partners such as grassroots leaders, constituencies and agencies to better understand the hoarding cases that they encounter. It also provides mental health training to increase their understanding of mental illness and advice on treatment options so that they may help their residents. IMH has regular multi-agency case conferences with interested stakeholders to discuss further management of challenging cases.

If you know someone who may have a hoarding problem, you can approach the Housing and Development Board (HDB) for assistance. Alternatively, you can call the Mental Health Helpline at 6389 2222 for advice if you know the person in need may have mental health issues.



A study “Hoarding in an Asian Population: Prevalence, Correlates, Disability and Quality of Life” was conducted by IMH’s Research Division as part of the 2010 Singapore Mental Health Study. Two per cent of our adult population has a lifetime prevalence of hoarding, which is lower than the 4 per cent reported in studies done elsewhere. Hoarding is also less prevalent as compared to two other common mental illnesses among the Singapore population – major depressive disorder (5.8 per cent of the adult population) and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) (3 per cent of the adult population). 

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