Compulsive hoarding disorder is a lifestyle characterised by accumulating an abnormally large number of things of little value. These are kept in a chaotic manner, as opposed to in a tidy collection.
When Compulsive Hoarding Disorder Needs Attention
However this only becomes a problem when the cluttered collection gets in the way of a typical lifestyle. The living room may for example become unusable because it is crammed full of things.
This becomes more serious if there are other people living in the house. Conflict may erupt if they try to tidy up. That’s because hoarders are often deeply possessive about their accumulations of things.
Therefore it may be difficult to treat compulsive hoarding disorder when it reaches this stage. People who compulsively hoard view their behaviour as normal. They resist attempts to help. However they may conversely also feel deeply ashamed about it according to NHS National Health Service.
That’s why it is really important to encourage them to seek help if we possibly can. This could for example be clearing the hoarder’s house partly. There’s a sad side to hoarders too. They become lonely and trapped in their world nobody else seems to understand.
This is Not a Self-Terminating Condition
There is no evidence of the situation coming right on its own. According to NHS, it’s a problem that may never go away, unless we tackle it. To muddy the waters further medical specialists don’t fully understand how it starts
Hoarding compulsively may also be an outward sign of a deeper seated condition. Possibilities include a physical disadvantage, and developing dementia affecting logical thinking.
Typical Co-Travellers with Hoarding Disorder
Mental Health Conditions that Associate with Compulsive Hoarding
- Severe Depression – Typical outward signs are severe and persistent low mood, profound sadness, or a sense of despair
- Psychotic Disorders – Conditions like schizophrenia leading to illusions and extremely disordered thinking
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder – This causes uncontrolled, recurring thoughts, obsessions, and compulsions
However in Many Cases Hoarding Associates with a Life Style
Associations are not causes, they merely appear in parallel. Compulsive hoarding disorder also associates with the following:
- Living alone or being unmarried
- Growing up as a deprived child
- A family history of hoarding
- Growing up in a cluttered home
Many Hoarders Have Strongly-Held Beliefs about Their Posessions
Many of us hang on to things we no longer have a use for, in the belief we may have one someday. Others of us buy things impulsively in the hope they will make us happy.
Compulsively hoarding is an extreme form of these beliefs. It is not another country; it is the far end of our spectrum.
This is the reason why hoarders hang on to thing without monetary value so firmly. We need to understand this alternative world view, if we know a hoarder. They cannot ‘snap out of it’ or ‘turn over a new leaf’.
They may also have sentimental feelings over their possessions, because they acquired the clutter at a special moment, or it marks a point in the passage of time. Clearing out a compulsive hoarder’s house should therefore be done sensitively.
Is There a Difference between Collecting and Hoarding?
There certainly is! Collectors of postage stamps and gramophone records for example keep them exceptionally neat and tidy. They have indexes of every item so they can find individual ones in a few moments.
They are also proud to show them off to friends and family, and may be willing to share their most valuable pieces at museums and expos.
Compulsive hoarders on the other hand pile their things one on top of each other. It’s impossible to find anything. They have probably forgotten what is there under the top layer.
Outwards Signs of Compulsive Hoarding Disorder You May Know
If you have a family member or friend trapped in this particular situation then these signs may be familiar:
- Piles of junk with little or no monetary value
- Your friend does not know where things are
- They also find it difficult to make decisions
- Everyday tasks have become difficult to deal with
- They are extremely possessive about everything
- Their interrelationship skills have deteriorated
These challenges may have started in their early teen years and become gradually become more extreme as they aged. About 2% of people in the UK are seriously troubled this way.
Do Hoarders Collect Particular Things in the UK?
No not really, although the following things are easier to collect quickly;
- Books, magazines, and newspapers other people discard
- Old clothes, because other people usually replace theirs fairly often
- Leaflets, bills and receipts that pour into our lives in a steady stream
- Used containers such as cardboard boxes, and plastic and paper bags
- Household consumables and supplies that are past their use-by dates
- Even cats and dogs well-meaning hoarders rescue from the streets
Data hoarding is a relatively new phenomenon on computers and smartphones. We all do this, even though we know we will forget most of it is there.
When Excessive Collecting Becomes a Problem
Compulsive hoarding disorder is not a problem in principle. It’s just a particular lifestyle that is harmless in moderation.
However, that’s provided it does not assume control over the hoarder’s life, or cause their personal hygiene, personal relationships or work performance to suffer. It is also getting out of hand if it restricts access in their house.
Property maintenance can suffer too, if tradespeople can no longer access the home to do repairs, or the front door remains firmly closed to family, friends and carers. There may also be serious health implications as hygiene deteriorates, and rodents and insects take over.
If you see these signs then it is time to intervene before the affected person falls ill, or injures them self. Things can deteriorate sharply while they remain in lonely isolation. A hoarder’s house clearance may have become essential.
Things You Can Try and Do to Help
This is not an easy situation to find yourself in because you are tampering with the hoarder’s emotions at deep-seated level close to survival instincts. If you are quite close to them, and they are worrying this is happening to them, you could try suggesting a visit to a doctor.
Please don’t expect to find this easy though. Your friend may not believe they need help and accuse you of interfering. If that happens back off. You don’t want to drive them deeper into their tunnel. Helping someone with compulsive hoarding disorder is never going to be a quick fix.
Constant reassurance is critical here. You need to convince them you are not planning to get rid of their stuff while their back is turned. You are there to help and everything will move at their speed.
Try your best not to suggest workarounds like putting a shed in the garden. Your goal should be getting them to agree to see a cognitive behavioural therapist. Until then, the best you can do is stand by and be ready to pick up the pieces, whatever ever these may.
Your most important task is keeping communication channels open. You could be their last link to their outside world. It’s an awesome responsibility fate placed on your shoulders.