I love watching shows on addiction and alcoholism, but for some reason I had a hard time watching a Hoarding reality show. The photos can be disturbing, since hoarding often creates horrible living conditions. Homes may be filled to capacity, with only tiny pathways winding through garbage or clutter. Some people also collect animals, keeping dozens or hundreds of pets in unsanitary conditions.
What is it? Hoarding is the excessive purchasing, acquiring, searching, and saving of items that have little or no value. It is different than collecting. The hoarder has a compulsive need to save things. A person with hoarding disorder is upset at the thought of getting rid of things. The items make them feel safe. In contrast, collectors have a sense of pride about their possessions, and it creates happiness. It’s a hobby. They keep their collection organized, and only purchase things in their budget.
Hoarding ranges from mild to severe. In some cases, hoarding may not have much impact on your life, while in other cases it can prevent you from living a normal life.
Do you have a problem – use the following scale and take a short quiz and rate the answers a score of 0-10:
0 = no problem
2 = mild problem, occasionally (less than weekly) acquires items not needed, or acquires a few unneeded items
4 = moderate, regularly (once or twice weekly) acquires items not needed, or acquires some unneeded items
6 = severe, frequently (several times per week) acquires items not needed, or acquires many unneeded items
8 = extreme, very often (daily) acquires items not needed, or acquires large numbers of unneeded items
1.Because of the clutter or number of possessions, how difficult is it for you to use the rooms in your home?
2.To what extent do you have difficulty discarding (or recycling, selling, giving away) ordinary things that other people would get rid of?
3.To what extent do you currently have a problem with collecting free things or buying more things than you need or can use or can afford?
4.To what extent do you experience emotional distress because of clutter, difficulty discarding or problems with buying or acquiring things?
5.To what extent do you experience impairment in your life (daily routine, job / school, social activities, family activities, financial difficulties) because of clutter, difficulty discarding, or problems with buying or acquiring things?
People with hoarding problems: score about 22. The clinical cutoff score is 14 (you might have a problem).
Also look at a score of 4 or greater on questions 1 and 2, and a score of 4 or greater on either question 4 or question 5.
People with hoarding disorder often don’t see it as a problem, and that makes treatment a challenge. But intensive treatment can help people with hoarding disorder, live a more comfortable life.
Symptoms of Hoarding
Clutter and difficulty throwing away things are usually the first signs and symptoms of hoarding disorder. It normally starts to show in the teenage years. As the person grows older, he or she typically starts collecting things (even though there is not space). By middle age, symptoms get worse and may be harder to treat.
Hoarding disorder affects emotions, thoughts and behavior. Signs and symptoms may include:
inability to part with any possession, even when it has no value
Excessive attachment to possessions
Cluttered living spaces
Keeping stacks of newspapers, magazines or junk mail
Letting food or trash build up to unsanitary levels
Acquiring useless items, such as trash or napkins from a restaurant
Difficulty managing daily lives because of procrastination and trouble making decisions
Moving items from one pile to another, without throwing anything away
Difficulty organizing items
Shame or embarrassment
Limited or no social interactions
The hoarders believe these items will be needed or have value in the future. They feel safer when surrounded by the things they save. Note that, hoarding disorder is different from collecting.
People who hoard animals may collect dozens or even hundreds of pets. Animals may be confined inside or outside. Because of the large numbers, these animals often aren’t cared for properly. The health and safety of the person and the animals are at risk due to unsanitary conditions.
Risks caused by hoarding
Significant hoarding can put individuals who hoard and their family members at serious risk of heath problems, injury, removal of at-risk children or older adults from the home, homelessness or in the worst case, even death.
Homelessness can result if the local Department of Public Health must order the person out of or condemn the dwelling or if the landlord demonstrates in court that the level or type of hoarding seriously violates the lease. Shelters have also been known to bar individuals whose hoarding puts other shelter guests at risk.
Health problems include falls or accidents and inability of emergency personnel to enter or remove an ill person. Clutter, garbage, animal or human feces and resulting mold or infestation can also cause respiratory and other health problems. Lack of sanitation can be particularly unsafe for some individuals. Ammonia levels from accumulations of urine and feces can easily exceed maximum occupational exposure limits, and can be harmful to persons with cardiac or respiratory dysfunction.
Blocked exits or heating vents can also pose a fire hazard and occasionally the nature or extent of hoarded items creates structural dangers due to excess weight. Hoarding of dangerous or flammable items poses great health and safety risks.
Risk to Children and Dependent Adults
The Department of Children and Families can remove children from a home that poses serious health and safety risks to them. The Disabled Persons Protection Commission may also take action on behalf of a dependent family member with a disability.
Improper care or neglect of animals can put people at risk of committing felony-level crimes, resulting in forfeiture of animals, fines, and imprisonment.
Treatment is the Solution for Hoarding
If you or a loved one has symptoms of hoarding disorder, talk with a doctor or mental health provider as soon as possible.
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