Hoarding is a disorder where people feel that they can’t throw away items, even if they are trash, insignificant, or useless. They fill their homes or apartments with clutter, often to the point where the house becomes unusable or dangerous.
TV shows like Hoarders have made more people aware of hoarding disorder, but it is still poorly understood. Here are five facts about this fascinating disorder that you might not know.
Hoarders Lead Normal Lives
Between 700,000 and 1.4 million people are affected by hoarding disorder, and many of them lead normal lives outside of their homes. Famouseccentrics such as the Collyer brothers have given the public the idea that all hoarders isolate themselves. In reality, many people keep their hoards secret while going to work and maintaining social lives outside. They simply never invite people over.
Hoarding Isn’t OCD
On TV shows like Lifetime’s Hoarders, OCD specialists are often called in to help the hoarders deal with their anxiety over cleaning up the hoard. The truth is that hoarding was recently recognized as being distinct from OCD. It affects different parts of the brain and needs to be treated in different ways.
They Might Not Know It’s A Problem
Many hoarders see their homes differently than a visitor might. They see their house as messy or cluttered, but not as dangerous or problematic. Often, they need outside help to recognize that they have a problem. Interventions need to be complex, with friends and relatives checking in regularly after the fact to make sure the hoard does not make a comeback.
Not All Hoarders Are Collectors
Although many hoarders start off with compulsively collecting things, the reason for the mass of clutter in their homes is different. Studies show that hoarders do not always collect junk and don’t really have a problem with the act of cleaning up. Rather, the idea of throwing anything away triggers anxiety in them.They form a strong emotional attachment to the items in their hoard and can’t bear to reject or throw out the items that feel so important to them.
Cleanup Can Be Dangerous
Because hoarding sometimes causes entire rooms to be rendered unusable, cleanup can sometimes become dangerous. Possible issues include mold spores from rotten food, human waste within the house (if the bathroom is blocked off or the water has been shut off), or even floors damaged to the point where they could give way.
Cleanup specialists who work with hoarders need to understand and sympathize with the hoarder, not just throw everything away. A good cleanup crewwill talk to the hoarder about what is acceptable to throw away and how they want items disposed of. They also have to be ready to deal with any potential health hazards that might arise.
For all these reasons, if you have a loved one who is a hoarder, it is best to call a professional team to help with intervention and cleanup rather than imagining you can handle it all yourself.