Compulsive hoarding affects approximately two million people in America. Even in a large country like ours, that’s a pretty staggering number. Millions more are affected by this disorder: spouses and children as well as relatives and friends.
Compulsive hoarding is a mental disorder that causes a person to collect everything they come across and hoarders have extreme difficulty throwing anything out – from receipts to bills from decades past. Hoarding can be considered a part of the obsessive compulsive disorder family and is one of the hardest disorders to treat. Some experts believe that complete recovery is almost impossible.
Many sufferers also experience severe anxiety and the thought of throwing something away causes deep distress. It is not uncommon for a hoarder to have limited access to closets, couches or even beds, due to the amount of things accumulated and they tend to avoid having visitors due to the level of embarrassment they feel.
Homes may also have problems with bugs, mice, mold and bacteria because of the inability to throw rotting food or containers away. Hoarders tend to also accumulate pets and find themselves incapable of looking after them properly, adding to the chaos.
Probably the most disturbing aspect is the children who live in these homes. Health issues aside, they live in constant turmoil, unable to sleep in their own beds or eat at the kitchen table, and they too become socially isolated because they cannot (or are not allowed) to invite friends over to play. Asthma can be exacerbated in children due to unsanitary conditions and they live with the stress of their parent’s disorder on a daily basis, causing their own anxiety issues and the risk of developing this disorder themselves.
Sufferers are not lazy people who can’t be bothered to clean up after themselves. In fact, perfectionism is a dominant reason for their disorder. If they cannot clean or organize perfectly, many would rather wait until they attain perfection. Since perfection is impossible for anyone, they end up waiting forever, and mounds of possessions and ‘stuff’ ends up around them until they are so over-whelmed that they have no idea where to even start. Often their home ends up a rubbish tip with just a narrow path leading through it, and nowhere to eat, sleep or even sit. Once a person ends up in this position, it’s incredibly difficult to know how to get out of it, and extreme anxiety further confounds the problem.
There is a lot of support for sufferers and their loved ones. The Obsessive Compulsive Foundation has great support and information and can be found here : http://www.ocfoundation.org/hoarding/about-hoarding.php
The Mayo Clinic also has resources and can be found here : http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/hoarding/DS00966
There are also many books on the subject :
Overcoming Compulsive Hoarding: Why You Save & How You Can Stop (New Harbinger Self-Help Workbook) (Paperback)
by Fugen Neziroglu (Author), Jerome, Ph.D. Bubrick (Author), Jose A. Yaryura-Tobias (Author),
Buried in Treasures: Help for Compulsive Acquiring, Saving, and Hoarding by David F. Tolin
Making Peace with the Things in Your Life: Why Your Papers, Books, Clothes, and Other Possessions Keep Overwhelming You and What to Do About It by Cindy Glovinsky
Do you or someone you know suffer from compulsive hoarding? How does it affect your (or their) life? Has a particular treatment helped? What advice do you have for others who may need help?
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