Compulsive Hoarding

Compulsive hoarding is when someone excessively collects things that are usually of little or no value whatsoever which results in the hoarder being unable to get rid of them. This usually results in excessive clutter around the home.

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It is considered to be a major problem if:

The amount of clutter keeps increasing. More things are brought in each day with very little or nothing being discarded. The amount of clutter interferes with everyday living to the point where access to parts of the home become restricted due to the clutter or totally inaccessible.

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People who hoard often suffer with anxiety and depression. Some may also have obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). The hoarding isn’t always necessarily connected to OCD.

Compulsive hoarding may be difficult to treat as hoarders do not see their hoarding as a problem or the negative effects it can have on their lives.

It is important though to try and get a hoarder to seek help. Hoarders may become isolated as they don’t want people to see they way they live.

This may aggravate mental health problems as well as posing health and safety risks. This problem will not go away unless it is tackled.

Why someone may become a hoarder

The reasons why people hoard may never be fully understood. It may be that they find it hard to throw things away. They may have difficulty with organisational skills or decision making.

Hoarders may throw some items away, only to replace those items with other stuff. The hoarder may also have unhelpful beliefs such as:

“It might come in handy some day”
“I won’t be able to cope with the loss”
“I’ll be happy if I buy this”

Hoarders tend to put off any attempt to discard things because it brings up strong feelings which overwhelm them and therefore they avoid making decisions about what can be thrown away, or not.

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Many of the things kept by hoarders are what most of us would class as rubbish. For example broken lamps or electricals, newspapers, magazines, pens and pencils. Even if those things no longer work or serve a purpose the hoarder will decide to keep them just in case they need them one day.

A person is more likely to become a compulsive hoarder if there is a history of hoarding in the family. If they have experienced deprivation or loss. If the home they grew up in was cluttered. If they are lonely. If they have been suffering from some form of mental health issues. They may have a history of alcohol or drug dependency. They may have lost a loved one or everything they own.

A typical profile of a compulsive hoarder

A hoarder may keep or collect things that have no value like carrier bags, broken electricals, tins, boxes. Hoarders often tend to move things from one pile to another pile because it is hard for them to throw these things away.

Hoarders find it difficult to organise or categorise. They also find every day tasks such as cleaning and cooking difficult.

Hoarders become overly obsessed about things too. Often not allowing anyone to borrow items or even touch stuff belonging to the hoarder. Hoarders often tend not to socialise with others either, preferring their own comfort to that of others.

Hoarding may even start as early as the teenage years and gets worse as they get older.

Why compulsive hoarding is a problem

There are many reasons why compulsive hoarding is a problem:

The hoarding causes clutter which means rooms cannot be used for the purpose they are meant for. Furniture and floor space gets covered with clutter.

The hoarder may have an accident and not be found in and amongst the clutter until it is too late. The clutter can become a fire risk too.

Compulsive hoarders are often unable to clean their homes. Rodents and insects may infect the house and also neighbouring properties, causing an environmental hazard. drains can also become blocked.

Hoarders rarely allow people into their homes and repairs are often left undone. Hoarders end up isolated and often suffer with anxiety and depression.

Hoarders think the things they hoard make them happy and bring them comfort, but deep down they are unhappy and often know this.

They ignore help from friends and family because they don’t believe they have a problem. Hoarding takes over their lives, it can affect their performance at work, their personal hygiene suffers and they have little to no social life.

What you can do if you suspect someone is a hoarder

If a family member or a friend is a compulsive hoarder you could try and get them to visit a doctor with you. This won’t be easy as a typical hoarder won’t want to seek treatment because they will not think that anything is wrong.

Your doctor could refer you to the local community mental health team who may be familiar with hoarding and OCD. The charity OCD-UK may be able to help you if you have problems getting access to therapy.

If you know a compulsive hoarder and are trying to help them, reassure them that nobody will go into their homes and throw away everything. Reassure them that there are organisations out there who can help them to declutter their home, organsiations like Nationwide House Clearance.

Be aware that the hoarding problem won’t be solved once and for all by calling in the council or Environment agency or a professional house clearance company like Nationwide House Clearance as once the rubbish and clutter has been removed, most hoarders will start all over again.

Even when the compulsive hoarder is prepared to get help, it is not easy to treat. However, compulsive hoarding can be overcome.

The main treatment for compulsive hoarding is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). The therapy helps the hoarder to understand what makes it so difficult for them to throw things away and why the clutter has built up.

It is very important for the hoarder to take responsibility for clearing away the clutter from their home. This will be supported and encouraged by the therapist.

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), a type of anti-depressant, has been shown to help some, but not all, compulsive hoarders.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT is a therapy aimed at helping he hoarder to manage their problems by changing the way that they think and act. CBT encourages people to talk about how they think and feel about the world, themselves and other people, and how things effect their thoughts and feelings.

By talking about things CBT can help a hoarder change how they think (cognitive) and what they do (behaviour). This can help them feel better about themselves and life in general.

The National Institute For Health And Clinical Excellence (NICE) suggest that a course of CBT is considered for adults who have major problems with hoarding. Regular sessions of CBT are usually necessary over a long period of time.

These should include some sessions based in the home working on the clutter. This requires patience, motivation and commitment as it may take many months to reach the treatment goal.

The goal of the treatment is to improve the decision making and organisational skills of the hoarder. To help them overcome the urges to hoard and ultimately to clear away the clutter room by room.

The therapist will not throw anything away themselves, but will guide and encourage the hoarder to get rid of things.Gradually through effective treatment the hoarder will learn that nothing bad will happen when they do throw away something.

The idea is to teach them to become better at throwing things away and organising the things they want to keep from the things they want to discard.

The therapist may also get the hoarder to keep a daily record or diary of what they buy to keep an eye on incoming clutter.

By the time the CBT treatment is finished the hoarder may not have got rid of all their clutter, but they will understand the problem better. They will also have a plan to build on their success and avoid falling back into their old ways.

If you are in need of a cluttered property clearance call Nationwide House clearance, we really are the experts.

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