Hoarding was only recently qualified as a separate behavioural disorder. There has also been an increase in people’s awareness about it. That is mostly because of the TV shows that show hoarders and how they live. But there is still a long way to go when it comes to increasing the awareness concerning hoarding. Unfortunately, some people fail to understand that hoarding is a problem and a real cause of concern. If you know someone suffering from hoarding and you would like to help them out then you should educate yourself first. You would not be able to help them out if you know nothing about hoarding.
What is Hoarding Disorder?
The first thing that you ought to learn is what hoarding disorder is. There is no way that you can take proper actions on how to help the person that you know without having a clear idea on what hoarding really is. A person suffering from hoarding disorder accumulates things that to others would seem valueless. They also have difficulty in throwing away items even if those things have no value at all. This results in accumulation of objects that would soon clutter the home of the hoarder. This clutter would make it hard for that person to lead normal lives.
Don’t confuse hoarding with collecting. A collector looks for specific things to get and gather them. A hoarder, on the other hand, would pick up random objects that would have no value to others. Another important difference is that hoarders keep their objects in special places where they will not be damaged, while hoarders are just content to know that they own those objects.
There are various reasons why hoarders accumulate things, for some the cause for their behaviour is actually unclear. Some feel valuable when they see the things that they have saved. There are those who hate to part with things that have some sentimental value to them. The only problem is that they see some sentimental value to almost everything. Still others save things because they feel that they can use them in the future.
This kind of disorder can affect 2%-5% of the population. When you think about it, there are many hoarders out there though they might not be aware of it. It can cause a great deal of distress, especially to family members, and disrupt lives.
Consequences and Effects of Hoarding Disorder
Hoarding can have some very serious consequences to the person’s life. That would include damaging social, occupational and personal aspects of the life of a person suffering from hoarding disorder. The person suffering from the disorder would not be the only one to suffer from it but if he/ she has a family then they would be seriously affected by it. They do not have to live in the same house as the hoarder. It would be enough for them to see or know the condition of their loved one to be troubled by his/her condition.
Hoarding can be a health and a fire hazard. Most of the time, there is no order in the way that the hoarder would keep things. Some of the items that are hoarded can be fire and health hazards. A house that is full of hoarded items can burn up easily and it would be very hard for fire-fighters to enter. Items that can decompose and rot would also present a hazard not to mention mold that can also grow on the hoarded items.
Diagnosing Hoarding Disorder
When you know what hoarding disorder is and what its effects are, the next thing that you have to learn would be identifying the probable signs of hoarding disorder. Only an expert can really diagnose if a person is a hoarder or not. There are other mental disorders that can cause symptoms that are similar to hoarding and that is one of the things that they would work on.
A series of questions can help in determining whether a person is suffering from hoarding disorder or not. Do they have trouble discarding things? Is the amount of stuff in their home causing problems for them when it comes to moving around? Is their behaviour causing problems with personal relationships and with work? Are the symptoms causing any distress?
Most people who suffer from hoarding disorder would have certain characteristics. They can be perfectionists, irritable, disorganized and indecisive. Those qualities could generally make their condition even worse.
Causes of Hoarding
Hoarding was recently classified as a separate disorder. That fact means that there is still very little research that has been done in order to explore the causes of hoarding disorder. But researchers have managed to identify a few risk factors that can increase the likelihood of developing this sort of disorder. There are some indications that hoarding, like other disorders, can be hereditary. Researchers have identified some genes that can actually cause hoarding. A person with a hoarder in the family is more likely to develop the same disorder.
People who suffer from other psychological problems are also likely to develop hoarding disorder. An event that causes a great deal of stress, such as the death of a loved one, can trigger hoarding disorder in a person. Contrary to what most people believe, the symptoms of hoarding disorder can manifest at a very early age. Normally it starts showing in the early teen years.
Dealing with Hoarding Disorder
People with hoarding disorder have different levels of insight when it comes to their condition. Some would admit that they do have a problem and that they need help in order to get better. To others however, there is nothing wrong with their condition and they would resist all attempts for them to get better, no matter how well-meaning others are. They would see it as an intrusion into their lives especially if someone would try to clean up their hoard. You have to be very careful when trying to help someone with hoarding disorder, especially if he/she is the type who would not acknowledge that there is a problem.
Never try to clean the home of someone suffering from hoarding disorder without his/her knowledge or permission. That would only make things worse. That would clean up the area temporarily but it would not resolve the root cause of the problem. It would only have a negative effect in the long term because they would feel that you are against them and they would be against anything that you do in order to help and cure them.
In helping someone with hoarding disorder, the most important step is to make them realize that there is a problem. Unless that happens, all the other steps that you take would be pointless and useless. They would have to be the one to take that step and accept that they are facing some issues and those issues would have to be addressed. You should approach them and tell the person suffering from the disorder what his/her problem is. If you can do it with other family members then that would be better. That might convince the person about the seriousness of the problem.