A hoarder is a person that buys, acquires, searches and stores items that have very little or no value. Some of the most common items that are hoarded include magazines, newspapers, plastic bags, household supplies, clothing and food. Hoarding leads to a number of negative effects in different areas ranging from social, financial, legal, emotional and physical areas.
Hoarders portray symptoms and behaviours such as:
- Inability to throw away their possessions.
- They suffer from severe anxiety when it comes to getting rid of items.
- Difficulty in organizing and categorizing their items.
- Indecision about where to place their possessions
Most of them also suffer from functional impairments such as loss of living space, discord in the family, social isolation as well as health hazards and financial difficulties.
Different hoarders have different reasons for their behaviour. Some of them believe that these items they collect may be useful at a later date or have some unique and irreplaceable value. They may also keep some possessions because they remind them of an important event or person, and if they throw them away, they will be throwing the memories as well. Others are not able to designate where some items belong; therefore they think it is better to keep them. Some hoarders may be perfectionists and they may not be bale to sort out the piles of possessions because of the fear that they may not be doing it in the right way.
Hoarding may be a disorder on its own or be a part of another disorder. Some of the most associated disorders include obsessive-compulsive disorder, obsessive compulsive personality disorder, depression, and Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Rarely, it can also be associated with Pica, Psychosis, dementia, and Prader-Willi syndrome.
It is important to know the difference between hoarding and collecting. A hoarder is usually embarrassed about his/her possessions and are highly uncomfortable when another person sees or touches them. Aside from that, they have clutter, which will end up eating into living space. On the other hand, a collector will have a sense of pride over the items they collect. These items are usually well organized and categorised, and the collectors feel a sense of satisfaction when adding to them.
If not checked, hoarders may end up without any space to live in or the space may not only be dangerous but also unhealthy. Most of them may live without the necessary comforts, and it may be very difficult for them to allow another person into such a space in order to fix the problem. For those living with family, hoarding is usually a source of resentment, anger and depression. It may also lead to eviction, loss of child custody, separation and divorce.
Fortunately, there are many ways to help a hoarder. One of them is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), which deals with the underlying elements of hoarding such as acquisition, difficulty in discarding and disorganization of possessions. Apart from the CBT, loved ones can also help hoarders by understanding them and being patient because it will take them quite sometime to learn how to declutter the home.