Do You Have a Hoarding Problem?

Hoarding disorder is characterized as an anxiety disorder in which a person fails to discard a large number of items regardless of their perceived value. Approximately 2 to 6 percent of the adult population in the United States is thought to have a hoarding disorder. Hoarders usually retain a large amount of objects inside of their homes, outside of their homes, and in their cars and may claim that they have a personal attachment to each item that prevents them from being able to part with it.

At Hoarding Help Central, we know that sometimes diagnosing a hoarding disorder can be difficult. After all, those suffering from a hoarding disorder are often unaware that their behavior is a problem and far too few of them ever present for treatment. Today, we wanted to take the time to tell you more about hoarding disorder so that you can identify whether or not you or someone you know has a hoarding problem. The first step in getting treatment for hoarding disorder is to recognize that there’s a problem in the first place. If you recognize any of the following behaviors that we will be discussing in yourself or someone you know, we will be providing some helpful resources that you can use to receive help. Let’s get started!

What is Hoarding Disorder?

Before we take a look at some of the most common characteristics of hoarding disorder, it is useful to have an understanding of what hoarding disorder is overall. According to the American Psychiatric Association, hoarding disorder is defined as a person’s “persistent difficulty getting rid of or parting with possessions, leading to clutter that disrupts their ability to use their living or work spaces”. It should be noted that hoarding is not the same as collecting because, while collectors look for specific items in order to organize or display them, people with hoarding disorder often save random items of little perceived value and store them haphazardly.

Hoarding disorder occurs in an estimated 2 to 6 percent of the adult population and can often lead to problems functioning in everyday life as well as substantial distress. Some research shows that hoarding disorder is more common in males than it is in females and it is also thought to be much more common in older adults- three times as many adults 55 to 94 years are affected by hoarding disorder compared to adults 34 to 44 years old.

Characteristics of Hoarding Disorder

Now that you have a better understanding of how hoarding disorder is defined, it’s time to take a closer look at the characteristics of hoarding disorder. By knowing some of the most common characteristics of hoarding disorder, you will better be able to identify these characteristics in yourself or a loved one who you may suspect has hoarding disorder. Let’s take a look at some of the most common characteristics in-depth.

Many Parts of the Home are Completely Unusable

One of the first characteristics of hoarding disorder that you should be aware of in case you suspect that you or someone you know may have a hoarding problem is the fact that, in the home of a hoarder, many parts of the home are completely unusable. Hoarders tend to have a significant amount of possessions in their home that are stored haphazardly which causes them to be unable to move throughout the home easily. In most cases, there are objects preventing or blocking a person from being able to physically move throughout the home with ease. In some cases, furniture may be entirely covered by items or clutter may reach as far up as the ceiling, creating towers of clutter in most living spaces.

Eventually, in the home of a hoarder, so many objects will build up over time that there will soon be only a single pathway where the hoarder and those visiting their home can maneuver through the clutter. Although it should be noted that all homes have some degree of clutter present, the inability to navigate from one room to the next freely is highly indicative of a hoarding problem.

Clutter is Unorganized

Aside from there being large amounts of clutter in the home of someone with a hoarding disorder, it should be further noted that those with a hoarding disorder also have trouble organizing the clutter. Clutter that doesn’t seem to have a designated space or that is stacked in boxes that are stored in the open may be a sign of a hoarding problem.

As an example, someone with a hoarding disorder may have pots and pans sitting on top of other possessions somewhere other than their designated area in the kitchen. All in all, the home of a hoarder often looks as though items have just been scattered about without any trace of organizational effort. If you find that your home or the home of someone you know looks similar to the example we have outlined here, there may be a hoarding problem present.

Possessions Have No Perceived Value

Another clear indication of a hoarding disorder is found in the fact that those with hoarding disorder typically collect items regardless of any real perceived value. In fact, hoarders will collect just about anything under the sun, even if the item has no monetary or sentimental value. A few examples of items that a hoarder will commonly hoard include magazines, junk mail, and newspapers. Other items that may be collected by a compulsive hoarder include broken appliances, unnecessary household supplies, and pieces of clothing that are no longer worn.

It should be noted that hoarding is defined as a compulsion and this means that anything could be a potential possession for a hoarder. Hoarders do not feel that they can part with the items that they have collected regardless of their actual value. If you recognize this particular characteristic in yourself or someone you know, it is likely that there is a hoarding problem at play.

The Collection of Animals

Another common characteristic of someone with a hoarding disorder can be found in the collection of animals. The obsessive-compulsive side to hoarding may lead someone to hoard a large number of animals. This is particularly dangerous as it adds biological and bacterial dangers to an already present threat. Animal hoarding goes beyond simply having a large amount of pets and also being able to care for them. Rather, animal hoarders tend to bring so many animals into their home that they are incapable of caring for them all. This can lead to especially unhealthy living conditions as well as abuse and neglect to the animals in question.

Decreased Socialization and Isolation

Finally, another huge indicator of a hoarding problem can be found in decreased socialization and isolation. Hoarders tend to feel very embarrassed about their living situation and, for this reason, may isolate themselves in their homes away from even the closest of friends and family in an attempt to hide their problem. A hoarder may also avoid having people over due to a fear that they will confront them about their problem and try to get them treatment- a hoarder’s biggest fear as this means they will have to part with the items in their home. If you feel as though you cannot have people over due to the condition of your home, it is possible that you have a hoarding problem.

Treatment Options Available to You

If after reading some of the most common characteristics of hoarding disorder you have found that you or someone that you know have many of them, there are treatment options available. It should be noted that treating hoarding disorder can be challenging as many patients do not recognize that there are negative and harmful impacts associated with their behavior. If you have recognized some of these behaviors in yourself, however, it is likely that you are interested in receiving treatment for your hoarding behavior.

The primary treatment option for treating hoarding disorder is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) as well as medications that can help to alleviate the depression and anxiety commonly associated with hoarding behavior. Psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy, is the main method used to treat hoarding disorder and can help patients identify and challenge their beliefs concerning their hoarding behavior. Therapy can also help a hoarder by giving them the skills needed to organize and discard the items that they don’t need as well as improve decision-making skills and coping skills.

It should be noted that, currently, there are no specific medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat hoarding disorder, however, medications are often prescribed if the patient has anxiety and depression. Antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are often the type of medication prescribed.

Wisconsin Hoarding Help Central

If you suspect that you or someone you know is in need of help for their hoarding disorder, it’s time to call the experts! We specialize in hoarding cleanup and assistance around the country and are willing to help in any way possible. Contact us today with any questions or concerns!