The Truth About Hoarding Disorder
Hoarding, or Hoarding Disorder, describes the practice of unduly saving items that others may view as worthless or excessive, and the persistent difficulty getting rid of these possessions. This leads to immoderate clutter, that ultimately distorts the ability to use the hoarder’s living or work spaces. According to the World Health Organisation, an estimated 2-6% of the population is living with Hoarding Disorder. It appears to affect women and men in equal measure, and is three times more common among the older (55-94) crowd. Around 75% of those with HD are living with a co-occuring mental health issue such as, but not limited to, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
How Hoarding Can Affect The Home And Workspace
Due to the substantial quantity of items in the home or workplace, many essential daily activities, such as cleaning, cooking, working, or even bathing can become difficult or even impossible. One of the most common issues with hoarding is the risk of tripping, and since the majority of hoarders fall into the 55-94 year old age bracket this can be quite dangerous. Piles of things can fall and block pathways, hindering the ability to move freely through the home, or obstruct airflow leading to low oxygen levels and limited cool air circulation during warmer months.
In the workplace, many of the same risks are present. For a business owner, these risks are compounded by the potential for lawsuits or structural damage. One of the biggest potential hazards attached to hoarding is that associated with fire. Much of the clutter is generally flammable (i.e. paper, clothing, food, etc.), and the close proximity of these items greatly increases the likelihood of fire. Often with clutter comes vermin in the form of rats and mice which can chew through wires. Accrued limited space often results in objects covering vents or exposed damaged wiring which increases the risk of fire, and fire is able to spread very quickly amongst so many things.
Hoarding And Health
Mould can be an unseen hazard, especially in a hoarding environment where many things easily fly under the radar for lack of visibility. It grows as a result of moisture and is a fungus which prefers moist air and surfaces. Mould exposure can cause respiratory inflammation, rashes, congestion, asthma, and chronic lung problems with prolonged exposure. Human or animal faeces can spread airborne bacteria, which can have a similar effect on the respiratory system. Often people who have pets living in a hoarding environment have difficulty cleaning up after them and urine can raise ammonia fumes to dangerous levels which can be particularly harmful to those with existing cardiac or respiratory conditions.
Clearing Out A Cluttered Space
Attempting to clean a hoarded space poses threats, as mould spores can be released into the air, and insects can be disturbed and may scatter and bite leading to allergic reactions and infection. Any mould or water damaged areas may collapse once the accumulated clutter is removed, and cleansers can pose a hazard if there isn’t adequate ventilation for noxious fumes to escape. The clearing out and cleaning / sanitizing of a hoarded space should always be performed by licensed professionals.
Written by Cassandra Jenkins