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Shamir Benji: Collectors of Garbage and Hoarding

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Hoarding is the repetitive compilation of excessive amounts of impractical items which are of little or no value. The hoarder never discards any items. The exact cause of hoarding remains a puzzle but has been linked to disturbances in emotional and obsessive compulsive disorders (OCD).

While most people collect inanimate objects, there are some hoarders who also collect animals like dogs and pets; and simply let the filth pile up.

Even though hoarding has been observed for centuries, detailed research on the topic was not done until the 90s. Hoarding is also seen in a variety of mental health disorders like schizophrenia, dementia and some eating disorders.

The vast majority of normal people who hoard items have obsessive compulsive disorder. Of course, not all patients with OCD exhibit hoarding but research indicates that at least 25% of these adults with OCD exhibit some degree of hoarding practices. Hoarding is twice as more common in males than in females.

One typical feature of hoarding that immediately leads one to suspect hoarding is the amount of clutter and junk surrounding the home. A common scenario that almost all compulsive hoarders display is the inability to get around/sleep in their own bedroom because of the amount of junk. Hoarding is not only limited to the bedroom or the home. Most hoarders store items in cars, garages, at friend’s homes, in the shed and even in rental spaces.

Many individuals who compulsively hoard items, have improbable fears relating on whether to dispose of their useless belongings. These deceptive beliefs include anxiety, guilt and embarrassment. There is some evidence that indicates that hoarders use the accumulated junk as a form of reassurance and safety.

Hoarding may sound like a harmless thing but it is far more serious and can affect daily living. The diagnosis of hoarding is relatively easily made by a mental health care expert.

The treatment of hoarding unfortunately is quite difficult. Most of these individuals do not believe they are hoarding and stubbornly refuse to seek help. The two types of treatments currently available to treat hoarding include psychotherapy and medications. Both Cognitive behavior therapy and various serotonin reuptake inhibitors have made some difference in the lives of hoarders but relapse rates are high. Cessation of treatment is often associated with relapse.

Because the disorder is so poorly understood, there is no preventive method.

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