Is Hoarders Real Or Fake?

All reality shows are, to a certain extent, produced — from the melodramatic "Vanderpump Rules," to the more personal "My Big Fat Fabulous Life." Whether they're focusing on young Hollywood wannabes or drag queens competing to be crowned best in the U.S., no reality show is 100% real, even when certain moments appear too painful or embarrassing to be anything but. For some reality shows, nearly every interaction is scripted, to some degree, and if it isn't, the content is edited to fit a compelling story arc (via ScreenRant).

"Hoarders," A&E's highly addictive show about people who fill their homes with stuff until they can no longer see the floors, walls, or the person who might still be sitting in the room with them, may be the exception here. The people featured in this show are in desperate need of help and are, arguably, exploited by the production of the show, but not even big-budget studios could possibly make their homes look that bad, right? It appears tragically authentic because it is.

Hoarders feels real because it genuinely is

The brilliance of "Hoarders" is it hooks you in with the gross-out element before making you genuinely empathize with its subjects. They may live in filth, but more often than not, they're dealing with debilitating conditions including mental health problems, grief, and even OCD. The show frequently features subjects who hoard as a coping mechanism in an uncaring world.

Naturally, though, the series isn't a documentary. However, on Reddit, a commenter who claimed his father worked on the show confirmed it's pretty true to life, writing, "Surprisingly it's all very real. I mean, of course editors work their magic, but all in all, those people really do have hoarding problems." Another user chimed in noting reports point to the show being one of the most legit of its kind. One user even argued that the set design couldn't possibly be good enough to recreate a hoarder's home.

It seems the show is a mostly accurate representation of hoarding, as two out of three experts who spoke to Everyday Health confirmed the extreme living situations depicted on the show help outsiders understand the seriousness of hoarding as a medical condition.

The drama on Hoarders is likely manufactured

"Hoarders" might be mostly authentic, but the show can only do so much. As former participant Verna Carter told Patch, her home was still a complete mess when filming wrapped because "they just ran out of trucks." Carter admitted she expected to have a complete clear-out, however the former reality star doesn't necessarily blame production for what happened, noting, "Truthfully, they did not realize how much stuff there was at my house." In fact, Carter reckons if the "Hoarders" team had seen her property beforehand, they wouldn't have agreed to feature it on the show. The desperate Santa Cruz resident was actually sleeping in her attic due to the amount of stuff filling her house.

As one Reddit user surmised, the fakest element of "Hoarders" might be the onscreen drama. "I would guess that the hoard is real and some of the reaction shots are. But them fighting, refusing to part with stuff, how they react to being pushed, especially the family members being frustrated are all at least partially scripted or reshot to have better sound bites," the user opined. That's pretty standard with reality TV, so not terribly surprising.

Hoarders doesn't fully explore participants' issues

As Distractify notes, plenty of people who appear on "Hoarders" sadly revert back to their bad habits once their time on the show is over. When former participant Shelley was featured on a follow-up episode, two years after her original appearance, the crew found she was not only still filling her house with clutter, but she was also lying about it, including making up a fake sister to justify the mess. Further, according to a report by EW, four out of five former participants were still hoarding with just one success story standing out among the bunch. Young Jake, who struggled living with his father's alcoholism, had managed to keep their home tidy a full year after "Hoarders."

It's worth noting that, as expert Lori Watson explained to Everyday Health, hoarding isn't something that can be "fixed" in a one-episode arc of a TV show. As Watson explained, "Hoarding is something that develops over a long period of time and successful treatment requires a multifaceted treatment approach also over a long period of time." In other words, "Hoarders" might be "realer" than other shows of its ilk, but the underlying issues dealt with by its participants require further excavation, regardless.