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Hoarding: Buried in Anxiety

One in every 300 people suffer from compulsive hoarding.  Its victims have crippling urges to preserve items in their home.  Piles rise and chaos builds over time, inviting financial difficulties, health hazards, bugs and family problems into their homes.  Clutter morphs into a frememy, and what was once a nuisance is now a threat.  It's just a phase, right?  Wrong.

This mental disorder flies under the radar during teenage years, then strikes heavily in later years.  It's associated with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and depression.  Its severity is often overlooked and symptoms are masked behind presumed laziness or a lack of organizational skills.

1.2 Million Americans are Hoarders

Approximately 1.2 million Americans hoard, 22 percent being males and 78 percent women.  Mental stress and emotional exhaustion make it hard for hoarders to decide what to pitch.  They stock up on items because they fear running out, and let things pile up for the sake of sentiment.  In their minds, value rules.  If it's not damaged then why throw it out?  It could be worth something...someday.

Why Do People Become Hoarders?

Compulsive hoarding is triggered by genetics, brain damage, and life experiences.  Over 85 percent of compulsive hoarders can name a family member with the same disability.  And others exhibit compulsive behavior after strokes and brain surgery, injuries or infections.  But for some it's not so simple.  Abandonment, loss, family issues, and lack of self-identity can lead to this mental disorder.  After losing the love or life of someone close, it may be difficult to get rid of things that serve as memories.  Their inability to let go traps them in a compulsive mindset, and their life as a hoarder begins.

Maybe You Know a Hoarder

Look for warning signs to help spot compulsive habits.  They usually struggle with:

  • Decision-making
  • Mistrust of other people touching items
  • Obsessive thoughts or actions
  • Isolation
  • Health hazards
  • Feelings of overwhelming responsibility
  • Organization
  • Surrendering control
  • Fear of forgetting and letting things go
  • Throwing away items

What Do People Hoard?

The most common hoarding items include:

  • Clothes
  • Cards and letters
  • Bills
  • Books
  • Magazines
  • Souvenirs
  • Tapes
  • Pictures
  • Recipes
  • Wrapping paper

How Do You Treat Hoarding?

There is still hope for recovery for hoarders.  Two common treatments for hoarding include:

  • Cognitive behavior therapy exposes them to tasks that provoke fears.  Exposure encourages them to resist normal compulsive behaviors.
  • Medication that attacks serotonin, a primary transmitter associated with OCD symptoms, in the brain is also effective.