What is a hoarding disorder?
A hoarding disorder is where someone acquires an excessive number of items and stores them in a chaotic manner, usually
resulting in unmanageable amounts of clutter. The items can be of little or no monetary value. (NHS, 2018)
When does hoarding become a significant issue?
Hoarding is typically considered to be a significant issue if:
- the amount of clutter from hoarded items interferes with everyday living - e.g. being unable to access rooms in your house
- the clutter causes significant distress or negatively affects quality of life for you or others living at your house - e.g. if someone trying to clear the clutter upsets you.
Unfortunately, hoarding disorders are issues that do not typically fade away naturally. If these issues are not faced and tackled,
they will most likely remain.
The first hurdle in overcoming a hoarding disorder is to notice the problem - some hoarders do not see it as a problem and are unaware of the effect it has on their life, as well as the lives of others.
On the other hand, some hoarders do notice the problem but tend not to seek help as they feel too ashamed, humiliated or guilty to do so.
It is important to realise that a therapist will not tell you to feel this way about the condition; rather they will help you overcome it, so seeking help is incredibly vital.
Furthermore, hoarding can pose a health and safety risk and also lead to other mental health issues.
Signs of a hoarding disorder
Those suffering from hoarding disorders typically:
- keep or collect items that may have little or no monetary value, such as junk mail and carrier bags, or items they intend to reuse or repair
- find it hard to categorise or organise items
- have difficulties making decisions
- struggle to manage everyday tasks, such as cooking, cleaning and paying bills
- become extremely attached to items, refusing to let anyone touch or borrow them
- have poor relationships with family or friends
Hoarding can begin at an early age (i.e. teenage years) and can progressively become more noticeable with age.
Treating hoarding disorders
Hoarding disorders can be overcome, despite being quite difficult to treat.
Having cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) with a counsellor/psychotherapist is the main treatment for this issue. The therapist will help the person suffering from the hoarding disorder to understand why it is difficult for them to get rid of the items they hoard, resulting in the clutter.
This would be combined with practical tasks as well as a plan of action. The therapist will support and encourage the person to take responsibility for clearing the clutter from their home. Additionally, the therapist will help with the development of decision-making strategies, helping the person to gradually start clearing hoarded items from their house. Eventually, they can become better at throwing things away, learning that nothing terrible happens when they do and becomes better at organising items they insist on keeping (NHS, 2018).
NHS, 2018. Hoarding disorder. [online] nhs.uk. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/conditions/hoarding-disorder/.