Accepting Hoarding as a Medical Disorder Opens Doors
In August 2018, hoarding gained recognition as a medical disorder at the World Health Organisation (WHO). This is good news for around 1.2 million sufferers spread right across the UK, not forgetting their families and friends. In fairness, the NHS had already classified hoarding as a medical disorder back in 2013.
Definition of a Hoarding Disorder
The NHS classifies a hoarding disorder as being when a person collects various items excessively and attempts to store them haphazardly. The result is disorganised piles of clutter, which most of us would discard as rubbish before it becomes a threat to safety. The collected items are typically of little value. Hoarding piles of old newspapers in a chaotic floor-to-ceiling fashion is a good example.
The NHS explains that hoarding develops into a potentially serious problem when:
# Piles of clutter start to affect day-to-day living. A common example is rendering that important small room we call the bathroom inaccessible due to collected items blocking the ‘wee wet room’
# This amassed collection results in stress for other occupants of the household and makes everyday living difficult or impossible. The necessary remedial action results in heightened tension in the home as relationships deteriorate
Identifying Hoarding Disorders and Seeking Medical Treatment
The reasons that drive people to hoard remain unclear, which makes medically treating hoarding disorders quite difficult. A hoarder does not always see their ‘problem’ as a disorder, or remains stubbornly oblivious to the condition insofar as it affects others in their circle.
Often, hoarders know they have an unnatural compulsion to collect and store useless bric-a-brac, but remain reluctant to get help out of guilt, shame or humiliation. Persuading a hoarder to accept their situation and seek medical help is crucial.
Getting a sufferer to discard their accumulation of useless artefacts can lead them to stress through perceptions of isolation. These symptoms can bring on mental health issues as well as posing health and safety concerns in the household.
If not properly and professionally handled, hoarding is a condition that will not likely disappear on its own, as would a bout of influenza. This makes professional counselling, followed by medical treatment imperative.
Why Collecting is Acceptable but Hoarding Not?
Most of us develop interest in various pastimes that may evolve into genuine hobbies that become passionate pursuits. How items collected get arranged and organised sets hoarding apart from collecting.
Invariably a collection is orderly, interesting and of some value, though this is not always the case. A collector proudly knows where their collectables are stored and can access specific items easily. A hoard is the total opposite, in the sense that hoarded items are stored haphazardly and are difficult to find later because they are inaccessible.
Tell Tale Signs of Hoarding Disorders
A person who is falling under the influence of hoarding may display these tendencies:
# Once good relationships with friends and family start deteriorating
# They become possessive and attached to items they have collected and resent others touching or using them
# Have difficulty managing routine daily tasks and even lose interest in them. Decision-making becomes difficult
# Be unable to arrange, organise and classify items they insist on collecting and hoarding
# Accumulate worthless items. For example, large collections of old newspapers, advertising handouts and plastic shopping bags
Medical Treatment for Hoarding Disorders
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is the most common form of medical treatment. The trained therapist will assist the patient to understand what makes it difficult to throw things away, causing a build-up of clutter.
Therapy can overcome the disorder though it may take several sessions. It is important that the patient buys-in to practical tasks set for them, and accepts responsibility for clearing stockpiled clutter back home.