Hoarding disorder is a term that many are familiar with, and has been talked about more and more over the years. Various documentaries on the disorder have aired on national television, shedding light on how gripping the desire to hoard items (or even animals) can be. But many still do not understand what the disorder entails, and are not able to identify the problem when it's encountered among themselves or loved ones.s
Hoarding is the compulsive action of purchasing or acquiring items, and saving them (usually at home), regardless of whether or not the items hold any value at all. Overtime, the hoarding can go to extreme lengths of out of control potential. It can destroy all aspects of life, including family, financial, career and even legal priorities. It is very common for an unchecked hoarder to experience emotional, physical and social deterioration or detachment.
Items that are hoarded, as mentioned above may not hold any real value. Hoarders have been known to stockpile newspapers, magazines, plastic bags, plastic bottles, cardboard boxes, household items, food, and clothing while making sure that none of these items are thrown away; this is due to the belief that they may be needed someday. Such a way of thinking is considered irrational and excessive or unnecessary. This continues regardless of the quality of the materials, which often deteriorate overtime in the clutter and due to expiration.
Typical symptoms and actual "hoarding" include: the inability to throw away any possessions, severe anxiety and emotional attachment to even the most trivial and unneeded items, extreme difficulty in the organization and categorization of these items, distress due to the feeling of being overwhelmed and embarrassed for having such possessions, obsessive thoughts or actions including checking the trash for accidentally discarded items, and functional impairment due to loss of living space, isolation, health hazards, financial problems and family or marital issues. All of these symptoms are typically exhibited at some point or ongoing through the struggle with hoarding.
The reasons why people hoard can be varying and dependent on individual situations. Past trauma is often the main culprit in hoarders. The trauma will have made them desperate to cling to any amount of control or sentimental value that an item may hold. Hoarding has been known to stem from other disorders such as OCD, ADD and OCPD.
The main problem with hoarding is the hazards it poses to the quality of life and general health. Overtime a hoarder can build their homes or yard to the point that very slim and debris-strewn paths are all that is left of their personal space. In severe cases, it is common for entire rooms to become unusable to the point that they cannot be entered. This poses the risk for serious health hazards. With such a high accumulation of items and severe clutter in the home, it can create dangerous environments for pets, children, and even themselves. It doesn't help to invite pests, contamination, bacterial mold, and well...you get the idea. Children are most often taken from homes such as these because one cannot guarantee their safety amongst towering stacks of objects everywhere. Even more, with such hampered movement throughout the home, the amount of items won't allow for regular cleaning. In effect, no cleaning is done in a hoarder's home do to the space restriction. This can lead to airborne disease, mold, and general unsanitary conditions. When animals are involved this problem more than quadruples. Long-time hoarders often develop breathing and heart irregularities, or often injure themselves attempting to traverse the inches of free space left in the home.
Help for hoarding is available. Most often an intervention-style attempt is necessary, as many hoarders become irate and agitated when the idea of throwing away items is brought up in conversation. It's highly recommended for any person attempting to intervene in a hoarding situation to enlist the help of a professional interventionist in the local community.
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