Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Hoarding: more than not just taking out the trash

When A&E premiered their show Hoarders (2009-2013), many people didn’t know about hoarding. The show as well as TLC’s Hoarding: Buried Alive (2010-present) has opened people’s eyes to this devastating disorder. Hoarding is the persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions regardless of their actual value. This behavior often has damaging effects on the person’s emotional and physical well-being and many aspects of his or her life. Commonly hoarded items include: newspapers, magazines, paper and plastic bags, cardboard boxes, food and clothing. Some people will even hoard pets causing dangerous conditions for them and the animals. Hoarding can often be associated with psychological disorders and often needs professional help. A hoarders’ reasons and behaviors are very different from a collectors.

The symptoms and behaviors of hoarding are: the inability to throw away possession, even when the item has no value (i.e. empty pizza boxes). Hoarders suffer severe anxiety when attempting to discard items and have great difficulty categorizing and organizing items. Hoarders are also indecisive about what to keep and where to put things and feel distress or being overwhelmed or embarrassed by possessions. Hoarders are auspicious of other people touching or moving items, even stealing items. They fear of running out of an item or needing it in the future. They will often have obsessive thoughts or perform obsessive actions such as checking the trash for accidently discarded items. There is often functional impairment of the home including the loss of livable space. Hoarders become social isolated and their hoarding will often create family or marital discord, financial difficulties and health hazards.

The most common reasons for hoarding are often simple. Hoarders often believe that the items will be useful for be valuable in the future. The items have sentimental value and the hoarder believes he or she will forget something or someone is the item is gone. The item is unique or irreplaceable. Hoarding may present on its own but it also can present with three psychological disorders. First, obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD), a preoccupation with orderliness, perfectionism and mental and interpersonal control, at the expense of flexibility, openness and efficiency. Hoarders with OCPD will have a hard time parting with items. Second, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), an anxiety disorder characterized by intrusive thoughts that produce uneasiness, apprehension, fear or worry (obsessions) with repetitive behaviors aimed at reducing the anxiety produced by the obsessions (compulsions). Hoarders with OCD will have an obsession which they will hoard in order to deal with the anxiety. Lastly, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is characterized with difficulty staying focused and paying attention, difficulty controlling behaviors and hyperactivity. Hoarders with ADHD have a hard time focusing on the task of organizing their items.

Hoarding is different from collecting in that hoarders will have often have a sense of embarrassment with their hoard while a collector will have a sense of pride for his or her collection. Hoarders will often be uncomfortable with people seeing their hoard while collectors will have joy and organizing and display the collection for others viewing. Hoarders will often be ashamed when additional items are added to their hoard while collectors will feel satisfaction with adding to their collections. Hoarders will have clutter at the expense of their livable space while collectors will have a designated place for their collections.

In conclusion, hoarding is a dangerous, psychological disorder that requires professional help. If you know anyone or suspects someone is becoming a hoarder, please seek help. Hoarding has psychological implications that require help. There are nationwide organizations which could help with hoarding. Please check your local area for help. Hoarding is different from collecting and can lead to dangerous conditions for the hoarder, his or her family and even the neighborhood.