How To Tell If You Are A Hoarder

Hoarding is an anxiety disorder in which an individual fails to throw away a large number of possessions with no value. Hoarding is believed to be a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Approximately two to five percent of the United States population is thought to have a full-blown hoarding disorder. Hoarders usually retain plenty of possessions in their homes and cars and may claim that they have a personal attachment to each item that prevents them from parting with it.

Parts Of The Home Become Unusable

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Hoarders tend to have so many possessions in their home they become unable to move through it easily. In all likelihood, there are objects preventing or blocking a person from physically moving about the home with ease. Furniture may be entirely covered with clutter reaching much higher up the wall. Eventually, there will only be a single pathway to maneuver throughout the home or a person may have to walk over or duck under clutter to get through a room, which is certainly not a pleasant experience.

Though all homes have some amount of clutter, there is another key trait that can strongly indicate the potentiality of hoarding.

The Clutter Is Unorganized

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Clutter that does not seem to have a place or is stacked in boxes exposed in the open may be a sign of hoarding, in the same way as loose possessions stacked up on top of each other and without a clear place do. For example, scores of pots, pans, and kitchenware sitting on top of other possessions in a room other than the kitchen may be a characteristic of hoarding, since the kitchen is the trademark place for these items. These items sitting somewhere like a chair in the living room or on the floor in a bedroom puts them incredibly out of place. All in all, the home of a hoarder will probably look like objects were thrown just about anywhere.

Continue reading to learn about how the value of these possessions may or may not indicate hoarding.

The Possessions Have No Value

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Hoarders will collect just about anything under the sun, even if the object in question has no monetary or sentimental value. These items may include junk mail, magazines, catalogs, and newspapers. Other items collected by compulsive hoarders are pieces of clothing no longer worn, broken appliances that have not been fixed in years, various and unnecessary household supplies, food, and even plastic bags. Hoarding is a compulsion, which means anything is a potential possession and fair game to bring into the home, and the individual will have no intention of throwing anything out. They simply feel they cannot do that.

Continue reading to learn about how animals can play into hoarding now.

Collecting Animals

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The obsessive-compulsive part of hoarding may lead a person to collect animals such as great numbers of cats. This adds a biological or bacterial threat to an already hazardous situation considering the mess that has already been created in a person’s home. Animal hoarding goes far beyond having multiple pets and caring for them well. When animals come into a hoarder’s home, it becomes even more dangerous than hoarding other objects as the animals in question cannot be cared for safely. In the end, both the animals as well as the individual can suffer greatly in situations like these.

Continue reading to learn about when a social life may indicate the presence of hoarding.

Decreased Socialization

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Hoarders may feel embarrassed about their situation, which can cause them to eventually turn away from friends and even close family members in an attempt to hide their problem. A person who hoards may stop inviting friends over to their home and children of hoarders may do the same for fear of being embarrassed or confronted by their friends. Hoarding has long been associated with unsanitary conditions, which makes it embarrassing for the hoarder to have people over to their home as it is not clean. It is crucial to note, however, the decreased socialization and ultimate isolation hoarders exhibit may not appear overnight. It can be a slower process, which can sometimes make it harder for others to detect before it has progressed quite far.

Continue reading to learn more about the unwillingness to part with items.

Unwilling To Part With Items

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Even if there is no good use for a particular item, a hoarder may refuse to give it up. Hoarders may also claim they are sentimentally attached to a particular item even if they do not know where it is or have not used it (or looked at it extensively) in years. They may become angry and defensive when confronted or claim they don't have uses for all of their things. Although collectors may be unwilling to part with anything in their collections, the distinct difference is collectors take significant pride in their collections in addition to being unwilling to part with them and often pull out the collections to show others or already have them on display.

Continue reading to learn about the connection between hoarding and other mental health conditions.

Presence Of Anxiety Or Other Mental Health Conditions

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Hoarders may also experience other mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, or another form of obsessive-compulsive disorder. They may not even realize they are suffering from one of these conditions since hoarding often takes center stage as it is clearly identifiable. It is crucial to note that while reducing hoarding can assist with the other mental health conditions, it can sometimes seem like treating the symptom rather than the underlying issue at hand. With this in mind, it is important to seek treatment from a mental health professional who can accurately find and diagnose any other mental health conditions and create a detailed and effective treatment plan.

This plan can include mindfulness, cognitive behavioral therapy, and medication. It may even include things as simple as getting more exercise and making plans with loved ones more often. How the plan approaches getting rid of the clutter once and for all will vary based on the individual.

Continue reading to understand how hoarding diminishes a person's quality of life.

Diminished Quality Of Life

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As previously mentioned, hoarding significantly diminishes a person’s quality of life, as well as their loved ones who may live with them. A lack of functioning living space is another common issue among hoarders and can become unsanitary and dangerous fast. For one, many homes that are engulfed by things tend to be unsanitary for one’s health, as a build-up of food, garbage and debris can occur, as well as bacteria and pests can be amongst the things that can harm the health of the tenants in the home. Hoarders often live with broken appliances and without heat, and the necessary comforts of life. Hoarding can also cause major family conflicts and various emotions amongst members such as resentment, anger, and depression, and it can affect the social development of children as well. Unhabitable living conditions can lead to separation or divorce, eviction, financial issues, and even the loss of child custody.

Keep reading to discover the risk factors and complications of hoarding now.

Risk Factors

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Medical professionals and researchers alike are not quite sure what causes hoarding, but they have an idea what can trigger such behavior. Hoarding typically begins around the ages of eleven to fifteen and tends to worsen as individuals age. Risk factors that can cause or trigger signs of hoarding include an individual’s personality, family history, and stressful life events. For many patients, their personalities play a pivotal role, as those who have a hoarding disorder tend to have a temperament that includes indecisiveness, and are often disorganized in various areas of their life. A family history of hoarding also increases a person’s risk of developing this disorder as research shows there is a strong association between having a family member who hoards and another member developing the disorder. Finally, stressful life events can increase the chances of hoarding, as some individuals may have difficulties coping with the death of a loved one, a divorce, eviction, or losing their possessions in a fire.

Hoarding also causes numerous complications, such as an increased risk of falls, injury or being trapped by shifting or falling things, a fire hazard, unsanitary conditions that risk one’s health, family conflicts, loneliness and social isolation, poor work performance, and legal issues, such as eviction.

Next, explore treatments options available to those who have a hoarding disorder.

Treatment Options

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Treating hoarding disorder can be challenging as many patients do not recognize the negative and harmful impact of their hoarding on their lives and how it affects their loved ones. As a result, they often believe they do not need treatment. This is especially true if the individual is hoarding animals or items that bring them a sense of comfort. When the animals or items are removed from the home, hoarders tend to react with frustration and anger. The primary treatment option for hoarding disorder is cognitive behavior therapy, and medications can help if the patient has depression or anxiety. Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, is the main method used to treat hoarding disorder and helps the patient identify and challenge their thoughts and beliefs related to saving items, and they learn to also resist the urge to acquire more things. Therapy can also help them organize and categorize their possessions, improve their decision-making and coping skills, declutter their home (with assistance), learn to reduce their isolation and increase their social involvement and help to mend family conflicts.

Currently, there are no specific medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat hoarding disorder, however, medications are often prescribed if the patient has anxiety and depression. Antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are often the type of medication prescribed.

HealthPrep Staff