What should I do if my child's friend is hoarding?

Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
Hoarding is a potentially life-threatening problem that demands intervention, especially when children are affected. Fire, disease, stacked objects falling, and mental distress are all ever-present dangers. Try contacting others in her family and see if they're aware of what's going on.

Hoarding is likely a form of obsessive compulsive disorder (commonly referred to as OCD). Your child's friend's family may think they're saving things that they'll need later or that have a future value, or they may save things because the items have emotional significance.

You and her family can talk with a mental health provider, who may help the hoarder(s) change how to think about possessions, desensitize to the loss of possessions, and help improve decision-making skills. It can take time, but progress is possible.

In the meantime, you may want to keep the kids playing at your house. If you think the child is in danger, perhaps contact local authorities, such as police, fire, or public health and welfare agencies.

The sooner you can bring attention to the problem, the better. Your child's friend and her family will be much better off in the long run. They may even thank you.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.