What is ‘hoarding’?
Hoarding is when a person will collect large quantities of possessions and feel unable to throw anything away, often keeping things for years and years. The person can feel much attachment to items, hence the reason for not throwing things away, and they can often feel very upset if someone else tries to get rid of items.
Many people who have hoarding disorder do not like the term “hoarder”, preferring the term “accumulator” and feel there are two categories:
- Organised Accumulators
- Disorganised Accumulators
Both types of accumulators acquire large numbers of items, however organised accumulators know exactly where a specific item is and organise their belongings into neat piles; whereas disorganised accumulators live in what would appear to be more chaotic circumstances and generally don’t know where items are – this tends to be the type most people think of when you mention hoarding.
How can hoarding affect a person’s life?
Someone who hoards may be less likely to take care of their own needs, such as paying attention to general hygiene and eating well. They may also neglect other areas of their life, such as forgetting to pay household bills, neglecting the cleanliness of their home or isolating themselves from family and friends. They may collect so many possessions that they are unable to use certain rooms in their home as they are being used for storage.
When a person’s hoarding is extreme, they can often accumulate so much stuff that there are only narrow passageways throughout the house in which to walk, with items piled high, causing a potential risk of the piles collapsing.
People may often push friends and family away from fear of being judged if they allow them into their home. Many people who rent houses will take out a short contract with the landlord to be able to move from house to house more easily, avoiding people finding out about their situation. Often, the houses are neglected by the landlords and pose as serious health risks through things such as damp or broken appliances.
What do people hoard?
People can hoard a variety of items which can often hold meaning or importance to them; however this does not always have to be the case. Items can be bought, stolen or even taken from skips/off the street.
Hoarding and trauma
Hoarding is being recognised more frequently as a mental health condition in its own right, rather than being seen solely as a symptom of other conditions (such as obsessive compulsive disorder), although this can still be the case for some instances of a person hoarding. When a person hoards, it is often the result of experiencing trauma at some point in their life.
The OCD UK website states, “long considered to be a form of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, hoarding disorder was probably correctly reclassified in the 2013 publication of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) as a condition in its own right. It is somewhat complicated by the fact that some people with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder hoard for very specific obsessive worries/fears, so it is important that health professionals correctly assess if a person’s hoarding problem is because of OCD, or as a result of hoarding disorder.”
How can hoarding be treated?
With the right support, hoarding can be treated, with the main treatment being Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). It is important to seek help as early as possible from a GP who will usually refer the person for more specialist help, advice and support.