Compulsive hoarding refers to the accumulation of things that have little or no value accompanied by the inability to part with the things that have been gathered. Unlike a collection hobby, the hoarders find themselves storing the items without any specific order. This then results in an increase in the number of disorderly goods all over the household to the extent of reaching unmanageable amounts of clutter. One main characteristic exhibited by hoarders in the lack of willingness to give up possessions. Should anyone forcefully do the cleaning up, then the individual will find him/herself starting to build a new collection. It is common for other people, especially friends and family to be bothered by this behavior but the person having the disorder will most likely not notice it as a problem. Compulsive hoarding is a condition which affects almost a million people in the United States and for this reason, it is essential to understand the type of disorder, causes, and ways of treatment.
Hoarding often becomes a problem when the amount of clutter makes everyday living difficult. This results in adverse effects on the person's life as well as the close family members. In itself, compulsive hoarding does not meet the criteria to be classified as a psychological disorder as per the DSM-IV standards. Psychologists and psychiatrists have however come up with a relationship between the condition to other mental disorders. On most occasions, hoarding is merely a symptom of bipolar disorder, dementia, or schizophrenia. It is also typical for the patients who have compulsive hoarding disorder to possess either obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or attention deficit disorder (ADD) (Frost & Hartl, 1996).
Studies have shown that Compulsive hoarding affects one to two percent of the population. In this case, the victims are spread across all demographic classifications regarding age, race, gender, and religion. It may be more noticeable among senior citizens than younger people. This observation may be so because they have had more time to build a larger mountain of clutter. Due to their nature, it is common to find compulsive hoarders leaving alone or being unmarried/divorced. Experts have established a relationship between hoarding and having a deprived childhood. On most occasions, such people may have lacked material objects making them have an excessive obsession with anything gained over the course of their lives. Severe hoarding could be a risk to others as well as the person with compulsive hoarding disorder.
It is not possible to point to a single cause of hoarding. Instead, doctors believe that the behavior is a result of several possibilities. For some people, it runs in the family and being brought up in a home filled with clutter may result in a continuation of the hereditary disorder. For some cases, hoarding is all about emotions. Such people suffer distress if items get discarded due to their emotional attachment to each possession. People with a compulsive hoarding disorder always feel like they made need a particular commodity in the future or they believe that they will be happier if it is in their possession (Gaston, Kiran-Imran, Hassiem & Vaughan, 2009).
Hoarding is associated with abnormal personality traits which may affect the social well-being of an individual. The negative characters include antisocial tendencies, anxiety, indecisiveness, perfectionism, and lack of self-control. Due to their inability to keep their belongings organized, hoarders make their environment risky and exhibit poor sanitization. The symptoms of obsessive-compulsive hoarding include difficulty in managing daily tasks and organizational problems (Frost & Hartl, 1996). The main items collected include old newspapers, clothes, trash, and mail.
It is the nature of compulsive hoarders to exhibit stubbornness and lack of desire to embrace change. For this reason, treatment of this condition may be a challenge. They are kings of procrastination and their belongings form an extended part of their physical form. There are recommendations on how to deal with hoarders, but there is no distinct cure. Antidepressant medications are administered to hoarders to improve their brain activity and to enable them to respond to change (Gaston, Kiran-Imran, Hassiem & Vaughan, 2009). It is, however, important to note that not all hoarders react to such medication. The other option is the use of Cognitive Behavioral therapy whereby, a professional is tasked with the responsibility of helping the hoarder think more clearly about their possessions and to make decisions on what he/she no longer needs. The therapy improves critical thinking and elimination of stress which may be a cause of the disorder (Muroff et al, 2009).
The family and friends of a person with compulsive hoarding disorder should take a step towards helping him/her. It is important to appreciate their decisions and to understand that the likelihood of a change is very low. For this reason, it is inconsiderate to argue about the possessions. Instead, one should spend time encouraging them to decide on their own. If the person is willing to make changes, this should happen gradually to give time for detachment. All in all, the best that can be done is recommending counseling.
Gaston, R. L., Kiran-Imran, F., Hassiem, F., & Vaughan, J. (2009). Hoarding behaviour: building up the 'R factor.' Advances in psychiatric treatment, 15(5), 344-353.
Frost, R. O., & Hartl, T. L. (1996). A cognitive-behavioral model of compulsive hoarding. Behaviour research and therapy, 34(4), 341-350.
Muroff, J., Steketee, G., Rasmussen, J., Gibson, A., Bratiotis, C., & Sorrentino, C. (2009). Group cognitive and behavioral treatment for compulsive hoarding: a preliminary trial. Depression and anxiety, 26(7), 634-640.
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