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7 Important Facts About Hoarding

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Hoarding is a complex disorder that comes with many stereotypes and misconceptions. Whether you have a loved one that is exhibiting these behaviors or you’re worried about yourself, it can be helpful to understand more about why this disorder exists and what can be done about it. Gaining a deeper understanding of how hoarding affects the person themselves is key to expressing empathy and guiding them on their healing journey. Below are seven facts about hoarding that may dispel some of the things you thought you knew about this disease.

It is more common than you may think

Worldwide, around 2.6% of people experience hoarding tendencies. Though this number may sound relatively small, it is not. This is just shy of 200 million people, and as we know, hoarding affects the lives of everyone around them as well. This disorder can impact the future of the children raised in a home with hoarded items and can perpetuate the issue as children learn the behavior. Understanding that many people do suffer from hoarding can help those affected not feel quite so alone.

It’s often related to or rooted in mental illness

There are quite a few mental illnesses that have been directly linked to hoarding. The first of these is obsessive-compulsive disorder, also known as OCD. The obsessive need to hang on to items, even if they are no longer necessary or in decent condition, is a compulsion experienced by those with this illness. Secondly, depression can cause people to hang on to physical items as they seek comfort and familiarity. Finally, anxiety has been linked to hoarding because of the internal fear of letting go. Just the thought of getting rid of an item or throwing something away can cause a debilitating panic attack for some.

Treatment requires outside assistance

Unfortunately, getting rid of hoarding behavior is not as simple as making a choice. Anyone that has been hoarding for a considerable amount of time will likely need professional help from a therapist, a psychiatrist, and a cleaning service. Therapists can aid in the healing from past experiences that may be at the root of the hoarding. Psychiatrists can prescribe medication to help with some of the contributing mental illnesses like anxiety, depression, or OCD. Finally, a progressional hoarding service can clean out the home and make it livable again for when the person returns home from treatment.

It is linked to past traumas

The environment can be dangerous and hazardous to health

Hoarding isn’t just an inconvenience; it can be dangerous depending on the severity. When a home is so overrun with items that there is no room to walk, eat, or sleep, health can suffer immensely. Also, the likelihood that things like mold and bacteria are growing in spaces that can not be seen is high. For example, food left out that has been covered up by other items can become a hazard to breathe in after an extended period of time. Similarly, any animal contaminants can grow harmful bacteria and release ammonia that is linked to respiratory and cardiac problems. In an unorganized space, children can gain access to dangerous chemicals or medicine that they should not usually be able to reach. In some cases, children will need to be removed from the home for their own safety. Indoor animals may suffer as well, which can result in penalization by the law.  Finally, blocking exit doors or vents can make the space unsafe in the event of an emergency, such as a fire or an earthquake. Also, if carbon monoxide leaks, there may be no way to detect it or escape it in time. In general, a lack of a clean environment can greatly impact the health of those living inside the home.

It can affect all aspects of the person’s life

When a home is overtaken by hoarded items, it can become an unpleasant place to be. This could result in children moving out of the home, either by choice or forcibly by child protective services, a partner leaving, and a lack of visitors. As a result, little to no social interaction occurs, which is detrimental to overall mental health. Similarly, an extreme attachment to the items in the home may prevent the person from leaving. They could lose their jobs, cars, and income entirely. These widespread effects are not the fault of the person that is hoarding. They are mentally ill and require professional help to get their lives back on track.

There is more to hoarding than simply keeping items

Some may view hoarders as people that are refusing to let go of items. It can become frustrating if you believe this is a choice and that the person is electing to suffer by holding on to the items. But, it is actually much deeper than this and can cause extreme emotional distress for those affected. The attachment to each object within the home is not a conscious choice but a compulsion. If hoarders were able to simply change their minds and let go of items, it would not be categorized as a mental illness. Many hoarders may not even want to keep the items but are still unable to throw them away.

Final Thoughts

Now that you know more about where hoarding comes from, how it affects the person experiencing these compulsions and the other areas of their life it can harm, you are better equipped to provide the support they will need. Although hoarding can have such a widespread impact on everyone around those affected, it is important to remember that this is a result of prior traumas or experiences. Healing is not linear and will require outside help, but it can be done.