Hoarding-A Serious Mental Disease

Hoarding-A Serious Mental Disease

You might only be aware of obsessive hoarding from afar, such as through a newspaper article about a family that kept a large number of animals or from a television program about people who had cluttered homes. A family member who keeps stacks of old magazines around, or your own difficulties getting rid of the things that are slowly taking over your home, could be examples of someone you know who hoards. Hoarding is a severe mental disease that can have a negative impact on both the hoarder's quality of life and that of their loved ones. Surprisingly, hoarding is a phenomenon that we don't fully comprehend. There are no simple cures, and psychiatrists have just lately identified hoarding as a distinct illness and not a sign of another issue. Although specific prevalence figures are difficult to determine, estimates range from 0.4 percent to as high as 4 or 5 percent. We'll look closely at hoarding, how to cope with it, what might be causing it, and how to spot it in order to separate the myths and misconceptions about it from the truths being revealed by recent research.

What are the symptoms?

You can have a cluttered home, a room filled with too much clutter, or an unorganized attic. Does that suggest you have too much stuff? No. Making decisions concerning material items can be challenging for those with compulsive hoarding, a mental health issue. The four basic signs of compulsive hoarding are listed below:

An inability to refrain from acquiring or letting go of things

When anything is on sale, hoarders frequently stockpile or purchase stuff with no immediate purpose or value, such as clothing, even when they don't actually need any and the clothes they purchase aren't even the proper size for them. Homes of hoarders are frequently stocked with clothing or other products that have never been used but are still wrapped in plastic or even bear their original retail tags. Additionally, hoarders often save things that have no value at all, such as piles of outdated newspapers, flyers, and junk mail. They are powerless to control their impulses to acquire more garbage and to make themselves get rid of the junk they currently own. They become really anxious just thinking about putting things away.


Perhaps a touch weird, but not a compulsive hoarder, is someone who accumulates things yet keeps them organized and arranged on shelves. The incapacity of a hoarder to choose what to keep and what to discard also extends to organizing and sorting decisions. As a result, the rubbish accumulates into unmanageable mounds and stacks. Although the hoarder may recall where certain things are, the mess is disorganized.

Feeling Ashamed

This is a critical indication of mental disorder. Hoarders obsessively collect trash, feel guilty and ashamed about it, and may subsequently hoard more to try to relieve their emotional suffering. It's comparable to an alcoholic who, as a result of the problems that drinking causes in their lives, continues to drink to dull the pain. This symptom also distinguishes collectors from hoarders, including individuals with vast collections of seemingly odd stuff. Collectors arrange and exhibit their items because they are proud of what they have gathered. The clutter in hoarders' houses is seldom something they take pride in.

Altering The Hoarder's Lifestyle

This can take a variety of shapes. Areas of the house get cluttered with rubbish to the point where they can no longer be used for their intended use. Examples include kitchen stoves stacked high with broken appliances, bathtubs packed with mounds of paper, and entirely blocked-off rooms. Due to necessity, hoarders will cut narrow passageways across rooms, but the clutter makes it impossible to use most of the home. It might potentially develop into a significant health and safety issue.

In fact, hoarders have perished after being crushed by their possessions. The hoarder's social life is also impacted by hoarding. They are aware that they cannot invite friends into their homes, and they may find it difficult to leave because they fear that someone will arrange or discard their belongings while they are gone. The financial effects of hoarding can take many different forms, such as the hoarder having to eat mainly pricey takeout since they are unable to utilize the kitchen to prepare meals. The condition can also have a significant impact on the hoarder's marriage and other personal connections. You may believe that you already know a lot about hoarding, but in recent years, our understanding of compulsive hoarding has undergone significant development. Let's examine a few of the myths around hoarding.


It does not affect young people

According to studies, hoarding symptoms can appear as early as adolescence. Hoarders are typically older because the disease is progressive and gets worse over time, and only the most extreme instances are frequently reported. Early detection of the warning symptoms could stop them before they spiral out of control.

Hoarding is just plain laziness

Hoarding is a severe mental condition that pushes people to acquire and hoard things in unreasonable ways. It's not just that you're too lazy to tidy up.

It is a new thing

Despite the fact that over the last ten years or so, TV shows have made hoarding more well-known and visible, there have long been records of hoarding. The protagonist of the 1861 book "Silas Marner" by George Eliot, as well as Plyushkin in Nikolai Gogol's 1842 novel "Dead Souls," are all in some respects hoarders, and "Dante's Inferno" describes a special circle of hell specifically for hoarders. Although they were considerably off the mark in their attempts to explain hoarding behaviors, Sigmund Freud and other early 20th century psychologists studied it.

It Is A Cause of Poverty In The Past

One theory put up to explain hoarding behavior is that it is a reaction to a time of poverty or a lack of material possessions in the individual's background, such as experiencing the Great Depression. There is no such correlation, according to research. However, there is a link between hoarding tendencies and historical trauma, such as harsh child discipline. Considering this, it is possible that obsessive hoarding is a kind of PTSD.

OCD is the same as hoarding

Compulsive hoarding may appear to be illogical behavior that resembles other OCD-related habits, but new research has shown that it is a separate condition that is not just a sign of another disease. Hoarders, for example, don't have the "intrusive thoughts" that OCD sufferers do. Hoarders frequently experience OCD as well as other mental health issues including anxiety and despair, which further complicates the situation.

It can be cured by simply cleaning the house

Sometimes a hoarder's home must be urgently cleaned out for reasons of health, safety, or even legality. However, a cleansing won't solve the underlying mental health issue. We enquired about how to handle a family member's hoarding from Lisa Hale, founding director of the Kansas City Center for Anxiety Treatment and adjunct associate professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. She writes in an email that "a cleansing or move to a different setting does not resolve the behavior without treatment." The likelihood of hoarding recurring is essentially approaching 100% unless therapy and/or strict environmental control are in place.

What is the root cause of hoarding?

Every investigation into hoarding reveals a new piece of information about the root reason. Given that compulsive hoarders are likely to have relatives who also hoard compulsively, research has discovered that hoarding behavior is a component of other illnesses that are unquestionably known to be inherited. Even some chromosomal abnormalities and hoarding have been linked to one another. Another study discovered that some participants' development of compulsive hoarding appeared to be related to a particular kind of brain damage.

Hoarding appears to be the outcome of a malfunction in typical human behavior. Material possessions provide us all a sense of security because we ascribe worth and importance to them. This identical behavior has gone entirely out of hand in compulsive hoarding. The cost of gaining the items measured against the cost of not acquiring them can be described numerically to explain why we tend to acquire things and desire to preserve them.

The non-math version is as follows: Assume that an animal has the option of storing enough food to withstand either a brief winter or a lengthy winter. Animals that spend a brief winter have a higher chance of survival since gathering the extra food for a protracted winter entails significant danger. But eventually there will come a lengthy winter, and all the animals who just had enough food for a brief winter would perish in it. Future generations will consequently inherit the evolutionary trait of "saving up for a long winter."

The bottom line is that long-term acquisition and saving strategies tend to have greater evolutionary success, and humans have inherited that trait from countless generations of our mammalian ancestors. There are more complex versions of the scenario, such as a genetic trait that causes long or short winter strategies to occur randomly in the same animal from year to year. In some people, the trait becomes dysfunctional.

What are the treatment options?

There is no quick fix or quick fix cure for compulsive hoarding. There are no medications that target and treat hoarding behaviour explicitly. However, addressing conditions like depression, anxiety, or OCD with medication can be one method to assist manage hoarding. Hoarding frequently co-occurs with these conditions. The hoarder's family must also work together to combat compulsive hoarding successfully. The main form of treatment for hoarding is psychotherapy, sometimes known as talk therapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy is the most effective form of talk therapy (CBT). It helps to alter the mindset and behavior patterns that are contributing to the hoarder's issues. The CBT must be specially modified for hoarding, and the treatment program can last anywhere between six months and a year. Additionally, medications can be used, especially if the hoarder also suffers from anxiety or depression.

According to Hale, "we include behavioral family therapy/coaching and also frequently involve a professional organizer who is familiar with hoarding in order to help control the professional costs of therapy and better promote development of the types of environmental supports that can keep up skills use after the active treatment stage." The hoarder is taught to recognize and challenge his thoughts about purchasing and saving things as well as practice disposing of them as part of the therapy. After learning how to organize things and having assistance choosing which items to get rid of first, the hoard can hopefully be successfully cleared out and entirely decluttered.

By concentrating on the advantages of purging the hoard, one might perhaps alter the hoarder's mental processes, choices, and coping mechanisms. For instance, hoarders can concentrate on enjoying the freed space to cultivate plants or host people over to play cards rather than worrying about requiring a stockpile of clothing someday and what might happen if they don't have the clothing. By removing these obstacles, they can feel less alone and engage in more social activities. Compulsive hoarding often returns even after completing a complete course of therapy, especially in the absence of continued support from family members and under stressful circumstances. Maintaining ongoing treatment is essential because this is a challenging and sneaky mental health issue.

The Most Common Problem Hoarders Have

A hoarder's property may annoy neighbors because it draws rodents or is unattractive. It can be challenging to legally compel a hoarder to modify their methods, even in the most extreme circumstances where a town might declare the property dangerous and order certain repairs to be made. There isn't much that can be done if hoarding does not go to the point of breaking the law because hoarders are not rendered mentally incompetent by their sickness, making it impossible for family members to get power of attorney or compel them to seek treatment. To assist in navigating the complex legal concerns surrounding hoarding cases, some communities have established task groups.