Many people immediately think of the TLC Special: Buried Alive when they think of hoarding. While this show does depict the most extreme cases of the disorder. Many people live with less dramatic but still troublesome symptoms of the disorder which left untreated can negatively affect all areas of an individual’s life and relationships.
What is Hoarding?
Hoarding is a mental health condition that causes people to collect objects in large quantities. The items grow in numbers and begin to clutter the living spaces in a person’s home.
People who hoard collect a variety of things. The first step in helping someone who is a compulsive hoarder is to understand what hoarding is. While many people think hoarders collect only junk or garbage, this is far from the truth. In some cases, those who hoard will intentionally buy items to collect. Some hoarding is limited to specific objects such as dolls, newspapers, or old memorabilia. Many people who hoard feel the items they collect can be useful in the future. They may also collect things that have sentimental value.
The distinct characteristic that distinguishes hoarding from collecting involves the disposable of these items. Those who hoard have a persistent difficulty discarding or parting with the items they collect because of their perceived need to save them. A person who hoards will experience mental distress at the thought of throwing items away. They often do not see a problem with the clutter. In severe cases, a person who hoards will feel attached to the objects they collect and believe those objects have feelings as well.
Hoarding typically falls is to one of three categories:
- Sentimental – “This represents my life. It’s part of me.”
- Instrumental – “I might need this. Somebody could use this.”
- Intrinsic – “This is beautiful. Think of the possibilities!”
What Causes Hoarding?
While there is no known cause for compulsive hoarding, several factors have been linked to the disorder. Some triggers of hoarding symptoms have been identified as family history, substance abuse, and experiencing a traumatic event, like the death of a loved, divorce, loss of a job, or abuse.
Hoarding is typically identified as the symptom of a larger mental health condition. Studies have shown links between hoarding and depression, anxiety, social isolation, ADHD, stress, or chemical dependency. While hoarding was once identified as a symptom of obsessive compulsive disorder, it is now listed as a separate condition. Although it is now distinct, some of the symptoms of hoarding and OCD overlap and co-occur. Hoarding can also develop with other mental health conditions such as dementia or schizophrenia.
Signs and Consequences of Hoarding
A person who hoards might show signs as early as their teen years. Compulsive hoarding usually manifests in childhood and worsens as a person ages. Signs of hoarding are:
- Difficulty getting rid of items
- Large amounts of clutter in a person’s car, home, office, or storage unit
- The inability to resist taking free items
- Losing important items, like bills and money
- The impulse to buy multiple items, or stock up on items before they are needed
- Avoiding inviting friends and family over due to shame or embarrassment
- Feeling overwhelmed by the volume of possessions in one’s home
Social isolation, strained relationships, legal and financial problems, credit card debt and in extreme cases property damage are some of the consequences of untreated hoarding.
Treatment of Hoarding
The treatment of hoarding is often ongoing and may be slow moving. Since those who hoard are often anxious by nature, and do not always see a problem with their lifestyle, treatment can be a scary and invasive process. Those who hoard can benefit from a step-by-step approach developed with a Thriveworks Henrico Counselor who has knowledge of hoarding symptoms, underlying emotional conditions and it’s treatment.
During your first sessions with a Thriveworks Henrico Hoarding Counselor a complete assessment including the administration of evidenced based tool such as the Hoarding Scale, Saving Inventory or the ADL-Hoarding or Compulsive Hoarding Rating Scale will be conducted. Areas of vulnerability, beliefs about one’s possessions and exploration of the positive and negative emotions experienced from acquiring and saving possessions will be used to develop an intervention plan.
Your Thriveworks Henrico Counselor can then work with you or your loved one to decrease the distress of discarding items, practice discarding and non acquiring of items. These unhealthy practices can then be replaced with more effective emotional management, organizational and decision-making skills.
Why allow hoarding steal more time from those you love. Call a Thriveworks Henrico Counselor today to schedule an assessment. Let’s get started!