The Potential Dangers of Hoarding

Compulsive hoarding is defined by the uncontrollable need to obtain items and/or the inability to throw anything away. The items overtakes the persons’ life to the point that they are unable to safely function in the home, even losing access to what is commonly considered basic necessities. Hoarders are often desensitized to the extremity of the situation or so overwhelmed by the clutter that they give up trying to change the situation.

Compulsive hoarding presents a concern to the family and friends of the hoarder, and in many cases, to the neighbors and overall community. While many hoarders feel protective of their environment and that their lifestyle is no one else’s business, there is a larger health concern for the person and those in their vicinity. Also, when the hoarding escalates to the outside of the home, it affects the value of the neighborhood negatively.

Let’s take a look at some of the dangers directly to the hoarder, and in some cases, we will be able to see how it can present a larger issue.

Fire – An extremely cluttered home is an easy place for a fire to start and to spread quickly. Many times, flammable objects like newspapers, junk mail, and tissue are haphazardly piled about the home. It is not strange to find this directly on a stove top. In cases where the hoarder has no heat, they will depend on the oven or burners for heat. This is often done with flammable things in the area.

Also, depending on the length of time the hoarding has gone on, the state of the house has decayed so much that the electrical is shoddy or damaged by pets and/ or vermin. In either case, it takes just a small mistake for a fire to start, and because of the clutter, it could be extremely difficult for a hoarder to escape in time. Also, the clutter presents a problem to fire fighters to get to the person, and it may be deemed too dangerous for them to enter such a home. The ferocity of such a situation could quickly and easily spread to the neighbors’ property.

Illness – Unfortunately, a hoarding disorder may make it difficult for a person to recognize the degradation in basic hygiene and life skills. There may be rotten food the person is consuming, or human excrement that hasn’t been properly disposed. Add to this the attraction of vermin and feral animals and that home becomes a breeding ground for bacteria, viruses, and diseases. Such creatures are used to scavenging and surviving and may readily spread to the hoarders’ neighbors, putting them in danger.

Falling – It is very hard to move around in an extremely cluttered environment. A lot of hoarders are elderly or otherwise infirmed and a fall in such a home could be a death sentence. First, since hoarders are many times solitary, there is no one in the vicinity to call for assistance. Also, if emergency services are able to get to the home, the magnitude of the clutter makes it extremely difficult to get to the resident much less bring in equipment such as a stretcher.

Economic burden – Many hoarders are in poor financial straits due to the extent of the disorder in their lives. For some, it is a manner of renting numerous storage units to house their collecting. For others it is due to the need to impulse shop. There are also the many fines and court fees some hoarders owe for not cleaning up their homes in a timely manner. Whatever the cause, the financial stress hoarders go through may pull them deeper into their illness – the desensitization, depression, and the resignation.

The dangers of hoarding are disturbing, especially when one considers it negatively affecting others around. No one wants to think of a loved one living in such conditions, putting their life at risk on a daily basis. Through gentle conversations about some of these dangers, hopefully the hoarder will recognize that help is needed.

Understanding Oniomania

Oniomania is a term used to refer to the compulsive desire to shop. It is also known as shopping addiction, compulsive shopping, compulsive buying, CB or shopaholism.  It can either be an impulse control disorder or clinical addiction. Most people who suffer from the condition are not aware that they are suffering from an unknown mental illness that is quite painful to deal with.  Research reveals that more women than men are likely to suffer from this disorder. The condition propels the victim to want to shop until they drop, whether they want the items they have bought the items or not. Most of the times, the condition leads the victim into serious debt because they often do not have the money to cover their excessive shopping habits.

Psychiatrists who deal with people suffering from Oniomania say that the behavior is triggered by the need to deal with loneliness and the need to feel special. The victims engage in shopping activities so that they can fill the void inside and feel good if only for a few seconds. This, however, does not work and they end up falling deeper into the activity and it gradually becomes a problem. As the problem escalates, the victim unknowingly becomes dependent on the activity and sooner or later they are unable to get a grip on themselves falling deeper into depression.

Individuals with Oniomania are most likely to start shopping in secret especially when relationships with friends and family members are strained, debt increases and the situation becomes worse. There are times where they might go as far as hiding the goods they have bought or destroying them completely because they feel ashamed of what they are doing.  This also acts as a way of hiding the addiction they are suffering from. There are no specific things that cause people to act the way they do, but some of the situations that lead a person to suffer from Oniomania include:

Personal problems that may lead a person to deal with a series of emotions like stress and anger. This makes them self medicate by buying something that will make them forget about their problems momentarily. However, after going through the shopping experience the victim rather than feeling satisfied goes ahead to feel depressed or regretful. To deal with these new negative feelings, the person might have to make new purchases in hope that these will make them feel better.

The condition often affects people who had problems growing up and suffered from neglect from parents or missing things that made them have low self esteem. It can get worse when a person feels like they can steal to satisfy their cravings for shopping and this could make things far worse when the law enforcement gets involved. The condition has been linked with emotional deprivation especially during the early childhood years leading to an inability to deal with any negative feeling s that comes a person’s way, excessive dependency, seeking excitement or approval, need to gain control and perfectionism. The good news however is that Oniomania is not something that cannot be cured and help from a professional psychiatrist can help victims deal with the problem and live normal lives once again.


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