A&E’s show Hoarders brought the condition of hoarding to the public’s attention in a way it had never been before. But what many people don’t understand? Hoarding is more common than we think. According to the OCD Foundation, serious hoarding problems are present in 1 in 50 people, but they estimate that number could even be as high as 1 in 20 people. 

Understanding that hoarding is a serious — and very real — condition is critical. 

What Is Hoarding?

Hoarding is more than just keeping extra things around. Someone who hoards struggles to discard or get rid of possessions because the perceived need to save them is too strong. Getting rid of of the items will cause a person with hoarding disorder to be distressed. 

Hoarding is not collecting. A collector typically wants to display their items and keeps their collection well organized. A person who hoards typically isn’t interested in displaying items, and everything is in disarray.

Some of the signs of hoarding include:

  • Difficulty getting rid of items
  • A large amount of clutter that makes it difficult to maneuver around items or use furniture
  • Being unable to stop acceptable free items
  • Not letting visitors or repair people into the home
  • Losing important items in the clutter

Why Do People Hoard?

Hoarding is not a moral deficit. Nobody wakes up one morning and says, “Gee, I’m going to start piling all of my possessions around the home, and never throw anything away again.” No, hoarding a real disorder and is always accompanied by anxiety. It also sometimes develops alongside dementia and schizophrenia.

Hoarding eases an anxiety in sufferers because they have unusually strong positive feelings about their items. Parting with those items can be excruciatingly painful. In fact, sometimes a person who suffers from hoarding disorder will even feel like their items have feelings and they need to be responsible for them. Sometimes, the objects are viewed as more important than the people in their lives.

Can Hoarding Be Treated?

Yes, hoarding can be treated, but it isn’t easy. A qualified therapist must challenge the hoarder’s thoughts and beliefs about the need to keep objects. A coach can guide someone who suffers from hoarding disorder through the process of getting rid of clutter, and then easing into getting rid of clutter on their own. Support groups sometimes help, and a person with hoarding disorder must understand that relapses can happen so a plan must be in place.

Can Family Members Help?

That depends. You absolutely cannot go into the home and start clearing out clutter. This does not treat the underlying problem, and hoarding behaviors will resume almost immediately. Plus, it will destroy family connections and trust. You can only help once the person is internally motivated to help. You can’t push them.

Having a respectful, empathetic conversation (or a series of conversations) that show your love and concern for your family member is the best place to start. Offer to get your family member in touch with a professional. Be patient, understanding, and kind.

If you have a family member who is ready to take steps to overcome hoarding disorder in Santa Maria, New Life Restoration can help get your family member’s home into livable, happy conditions. We’re trained in the best hoarding cleanup methods, and we handle every case with care. Give us a call at (805) 206-3412, or contact us online for a discussion and estimate. 

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