Compulsive hoarders may be hard to distinguish from other people until their habit becomes extreme. They just have a compelling difficulty getting rid of things. However, what sets them apart from serious collectors is the items have little or no real value. At least in the public mind, that is.
Hoards can have damaging emotional, social, financial, and physical repercussions according to Harvard Medical School affiliates McLean Hospital. Intervention becomes necessary when collecting turns to hoarding and it negatively affects family member lifestyles.
Hoarding is a Complex Disorder Best Left to Specialists
The hoarding habit emerges from a natural inclination not to waste things. And to avoid repurposing them to new uses, although it’s the right thing to do. Many people keep used shopping bags at tops of broom cupboards ‘just in case’.
But when the collection fills the entire unit, the decent thing is to recycle it. The take away difference is compulsive hoarders are unable to do this.
Mental health specialists originally believed hoarding was a special case of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). People affected by that condition have unwanted, recurring ideas, thoughts, or feelings. These drive them to do something repetitively including hoarding.
Ashley E Nordsletten and David Mataix-Cols of Karolinska Institute separated the issues in December 2011. They suggested a new condition they termed hoarding disorder, and the idea took root. This was because colleagues generally agreed a variety of issues could trigger the condition.
How Collecting Turns to Hoarding in the Face of Pressure
Hoarding disorder triggers include severe depression, coupled to an inability to experience pleasure. However, dementia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and problems controlling impulses may also set it off. The disorder may complicate interpersonal relationships too:
1… The hoard may intrude into family living space reserved for other activities.
2… There may be no space for sitting, relaxing, enjoying hobbies, or taking a shower.
3… The collection may spill out into the garden and become an unsightly mess.
4… Neighbours may find their lifestyle affected to the extent they call social welfare.
5… Major depression can result in the affected person being unable to care for themself.
Is There a Cure for Compulsive Hoarding, Perhaps?
Compulsive hoarding is a psycho-social, not a medical condition. We cannot therefore speak of cures, although there are procedures that can help. This is most likely if treatment begins soon after collecting turns to hoarding, as opposed to when the habit is entrenched.
A mental abnormality is often behind compulsive hoarding syndrome. Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) has thus become the preferred treatment. Main line CBT helps identify and change thought patterns underlying undesirable behaviour. For example, if a hoarder can’t reconcile the death of a loved one, that is where treatment begins.
There are a variety of techniques to help people change the kind of thinking that leads them to become depressed. These techniques are called cognitive behavioural therapy. (Irving Kirsch, Harvard Medical School)
Because of my bipolar disorder, I tend to these mixed states, which are depressed but loud and agitated. So I can be terribly irritable. I go to cognitive behavioural therapy in order not to yell at my children. (Ayelet Waldman, Novelist)
All behavioural or mood disorders – including depression, OCD, ADHD and addiction – have some neurochemical components, but sufferers can still work to overcome them. (Jeffrey Kluger, Time Magazine)
Compulsive hoarders have the opportunity to reassess their behaviour by facing underlying tensions. Specialist clinicians begin by establishing goals, for example clearing out one cupboard at a time.
They may help sort the content into ‘keep’, ‘discard’ and ‘recycle’ piles. This gives purpose to the exercise. Another strategy involves managing collections at the acquisition point, so they slow down or cease growing.
A Longer Term View – Managing Compulsive Hoarding
Compulsive hoarding is not something anyone can wish away. It’s a mental condition the hoarder and their family have to learn to live with. Stigmatizing it merely drives it underground, where it becomes even more difficult to live with.
Avery Associates provides room and house clearance services across England and Wales. These needs arise following death, relocation, or decision to clear away a hoard. Our people are professional and discreet. They know how traumatic house clearances can be. They ensure everything is disposed of responsibly according to client requirements.
From the very beginning Jeffrey Avery and his team on the phones inspired confidence and have come through with flying colours. I’d certainly recommend them for expertise, speed, efficiency, and not least, their kindness, patience and care. (Valerie Broadhurst)
Preview Image: Family Sitting Room Consumed by Hoarding