Hoarding behavior is the persistent collection and accumulation of relatively valueless objects, and experiencing the difficulty for discard them even when they become hazardous. The habit is developmental and can be exhibited by both the young and the old people. The objects are kept for various reason such as sentimental, and the idea of discarding the items leads to distress. Through operant conditioning theory of learning the initiation and developing of hoarding can be understood. I have been a victim of hoarding behavior and struggling with the behavior for some time. Hoarding behavior leads to accumulation of clutter at home and not only I but also other people may be vulnerable to falls or other hazards, associated with the clutter. Cognitive behavioral therapy can be effective in managing my condition. The paper shall endeavor to uncover how my behavior developed and a therapeutic measure to handle the condition, which is also classified as a mental disorder.
Hoarding is a habit that is characterized by an excessive acquisition of items which are relatively worthless. The items acquired lead to reduced space for living and later affecting private and other people’s lives (Sansone & Sansone, 2010). In the past hoarding was considered under the category of the forms of obsessive-compulsive behaviors, but currently, it's defined as a mental disorder of its own (Hare, Grace, Akenzua, Burniston, Dooley, Bream, & Rouf, 2015). The behavior manifests in teen years and progressively becomes worse into the 20s as the person continues to grow. For instance, in Cincinnati, a man in his early fifties was placed on probation following the hazard that he was creating to himself and people around him for the hoarding behavior. The man had collected allot of electronics and other unwanted materials that were assessed and confirmed to be potentially harmful (Sansone & Sansone, 2010). The accumulated clutter creates hazards such as falls, trips, and fires among other risks due to reduced actual living space. Studies have revealed that hoarding occurs during youth and the age of late adulthood. Hoarding during young age has consistently been associated with the symptoms of obsessive-compulsive behavior (Sansone & Sansone, 2010). At least 18% hoarding behavior victims in America are of the youths. In a Lancet article, hoarding was recorded among the older adults and was characterized with self-neglect. They were associated with a collection of rubbish and lived in untidy homes and appeared shamelessly filthy. They were reported to present with fall at the medical centers, which was attributed to the clutter around and inside their home (Sansone & Sansone, 2010). Some researchers suggest that hoarding at an old age may be described as a syndrome, which is different from that in the youthful age whose symptoms are likened to those of obsessive-compulsive behavior.
The hoarding behavior does more harm than good, and for this reason, it is in my interest to reduce its frequency. It’s a mental disorder and its development with time have become so hard to control. Hoarding behavior has embarrassed me and contributed to various medical issues, considering that one risk falls around the home. Living in nursing home as an older adult or even as a youth admitted in a hospital is not a good idea and stopping the frequency of the behavior can be the only chance for me to control the problem.
What causes hoarding behavior
To understand the factors that maintain a hoarding behavior, it is important to identify various types of hoarding. Level one hoarding, the household has clutter but the environment is clean, and people can live. This is considered normal. Level 2 exhibits problems with pets and a lot of home appliances are broken and pose a hazard but can be repaired and safety restored at home. Level three, four, and five of hoarding is characterized by an abnormal amount of clutter which touches from floor to ceiling (Church, 2013). This is a huge hazard, and a professional home organizer may be required to restore sanity at home. From the classification above I can place myself in level two and factors that maintain the condition are varied. There might a genetic influence as shown by studies, that hoarding history life in families. Another factor is the attachment I formed with my objects (Hare et al., 2015). People become attached to things they like due to some symbolic value they represent in their life. By the age of two individuals are already developing attachments with objects and along the same line is where the concept of transition object grow. The transitional objects allow children to be independent of parents and for other relationships. With time, I developed the tendencies of possessing objects which has become developmental throughout my life. This signifies the beginning and continuation of the relationship with objects (Hare et al., 2015). Excessive accumulation of objects without value to me with time develops into hoarding behavior. Also, a key maintaining factor for hoarding behavior is persistent refusal or finding it difficult to discard personal objects. The idea of dumping the objects even though they have no relative value lead to distress (MataixCols, Frost, Pertusa, Clark, Saxena, Leckman, & Wilhelm, 2010). Sometimes I cannot stand the idea of empty living space, and for this reason, I accumulate clutter to fill the space and with time beyond the free space and to the active living area. My behavior is sustained by a craving for the bond or possession with the property I deem valuable. Sometimes I use the objects as a source of identity with a particular group I used to associate with when I was a teenager. As I grew up, the relevance of the group vanished, but still, I cling to the collection of objects related to the group for reminiscing purposes. This outcome reveals a scenario where a once reasonable collection has developed into a pile of clutter that creates a hazardous environment.
The theory of operant condition is the model that I learned and developed hoarding behavior over time. The theory suggests that responses are voluntary and controlled by the consequences (Staddon & Cerutti, 2003). The term instrumental conditioning sometimes considers it since the responses learned are based on the environmental operations, which are integral in the attainment of the desired reward. According to operant conditioning, the subject is interested in increasing the chances or experiences the response or the compensation. The stimulus that leads to the wanted response is called conditioned stimulus since it avails the environment for the desired reward to be enjoyed. The conditions required for the response I want to occur is referred to as a reinforce (Staddon & Cerutti, 2003). Punishment can be used to demean the actions of reinforcing if the consequences are not desired by the subject. I learned hoarding behavior in the same manner, and the reward was the connection that I felt by accumulating clutter. Each time I added a scrap of an object to the pile, there was a feeling of joy and satisfaction. I perceived the idea of discarding any object as a punitive measure which led to a situation of distress. The pain acted as a deterrent for discarding the clutter and for this reason, the desired response made me feel fulfilled. I am conditioned to perform activities towards the path that has more reward. As a hoarding victim, I tend to keep objects that hold precious memories from the past. I may never want to lose objects associated with this moments even when they become obsolete. My attachment towards them continues to flourish, as they are piling activities had reached the extent of obstructing healthy living. In this context, the reward may be irrational but still I continue to condition the environment to achieve the desired response.
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