When does hoarding become a problem that requires one to seek treatment?

Hoarding is a disorder that is associated with the difficulty to part with possessions. An individual who battles with hoarding disorder undergoes anxiety and distress at the thought of letting go of items. This results in excessive accumulation regardless of value.

A person with hoarding disorder over time creates cramped living conditions. The sinks, stoves, desks, stairways and most surfaces have piles of stuff. The clutter can extend to vehicles, the yard, and the garage.

People with hoarding disorder may not see it as a problem, making treatment challenging. But intensive treatment can help people with hoarding disorder understand how their beliefs and behaviours can be changed so that they can live safer, more enjoyable lives.

Common Symptoms

The initial symptoms of hoarding usually surface during the teenage to early adult years. As the person grows older, he or she typically starts acquiring things for which there is no immediate need or space. By middle age, symptoms are often severe and may be harder to treat.

Problems with hoarding gradually develop over time and tend to be a private behaviour. Often, significant clutter has developed by the time it reaches the attention of others.

Other symptoms may include:

  • Acquiring items in excess when they are not needed and do not have space.
  • Being upset by the thought of letting go of items that have no value.
  • Where clutter builds up to the extent that rooms can no longer be used.
  • Indecisiveness, avoidance, perfectionism, inability to plan and organize.

Hoarding results in:

Did you know that Hoarding is a disorder?

Did you know that Hoarding is a disorder?

  • Disorganized piles or stacks of items, such as newspapers, clothes, paperwork, books or sentimental items
  • Possessions that crowd and clutter your walking spaces and living areas and make the space unusable for the intended purpose such as not being able to cook in the kitchen or use the bathroom to bathe
  • The buildup of food or trash to unusually excessive
  • Conflict with others who try to reduce or remove clutter from your home
  • Difficulty organizing items, sometimes losing important items in the clutter

Why do people end up Hoarding:

  • They believe these items are unique or will be needed at some point in the future
  • The items have important emotional significance — serving as a reminder of happier times or representing beloved people or pets
  • They don’t want to waste anything
  • Are a reminder of an important memory of a person, place, time, or event that the person fears they will forget
  • Surrounding themselves with these items may also comfort the person.

Read also: Hoarding: Understanding and Treating

One needs to make a distinction between hoarding and collecting. People who collect usually collect model cars and stamps search for specific items to display. Collections are usually large but they aren’t usually cluttered and they don’t cause the distress and impairments that are part of hoarding disorder.

Hoarding Triggers

These include:

  • A family history of the condition
  • A person may have suffered brain injuries
  • Suffering from a very stressful event, such as severe illness or the loss of a loved one

Treatment

Did you know that Hoarding is disorder?

Did you know that Hoarding is a disorder?

Healthcare professionals tend to treat hoarding disorder using a type of therapy called cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT).

During cognitive-behavioural therapy, a mental health professional will gradually teach people how to part with unnecessary items to address the hoarding disorder.

In some cases, medication may also play a role in treatment. This is particularly the case when hoarding disorder is related to other conditions that respond well to medication, such as severe anxiety or depression.

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