Conditions  >  OCD

How To Identify A Hoarder

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how to identify a hoarder

Hoarding is a disease that can be very destructive, as it slowly consumes a person’s life. Hoarding disorder is defined as a persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions because of a perceived need to keep them. The thought of discarding possessions tends to cause hoarders to feel distressed.

As a person begins to hold onto an ever-increasing amount of items, many of which will have little to no apparent value, the situation will grow out of hand until it begins hindering the sufferer from going about their day-to-day lives (particularly within their homes). The items that hoarders accumulate will eventually prevent people from using rooms as intended because they will have to use those rooms to house more of the items that they are hoarding.

Are Hoarders Different from Collectors?

It is important to distinguish some of the aspects of hoarding that differentiate it as a disorder from less destructive activities such as simply being a collector. Hoarding is a compulsive disorder, and those suffering from it tend to live in disarray. Collectors, on the other hand, usually prefer to have their items displayed in a particular manner.

Hoarders struggle to organize what they have. In some cases it’s due to the fact that much of it is entirely unrelated. In others, it’s simply because they struggle with the sheer volume of items they have hoarded.

Hoarding also poses a danger that collecting does not. Collectors often have things neat and tidy, whereas hoarders leave things strewn about. As hoarders increase the amount of things that they are holding onto, it can begin to pose a danger to them. People who are experiencing severe cases of hoarding can cause a plethora of hazards to themselves and others. These hazards can include blocked walkways that someone might need to use in case of an emergency and objects that can potentially trap a hoarder (or an unlikely visitor.)

It’s also worth mentioning that hoarding can cause a home to become unsanitary. Although this largely depends on what a person is hoarding, said items can cause a hoarder’s living spaces to become very unclean. While not all hoarding effects are life threatening, they can still greatly affect one’s life. Hoarders often lose their keys in the disarray, which can lead to long afternoons of digging through things to find them again, causing unnecessary anxiety and frustration.

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How to Spot a Hoarder

The spectrum of hoarding can vary greatly. Some cases are mild, and although the hoarder is suffering from hoarding disorder, it may not impact his or her life very much. On the other hand, severe cases can pose massive obstacles to day-to-day life.

The symptoms of hoarding disorder usually begin to appear in early adulthood. This can be at the end of the teenage years or in a person’s early twenties. Around this time frame, people will start to gradually build up clutter that they do not seem keen on discarding. When left unaddressed, these habits can enable a person to turn into a hoarder.

Hoarding is something that usually takes place over many, many years, and in a lot of cases, it takes place over decades. The average person seeking help for hoarding is about 50 years of age. Hoarding is a private behavior, which can make it hard to spot cases. Hoarders also often believe that there isn’t anything wrong with them or what they are doing, which can add another level of difficulty when trying to treat this disorder.

In these sorts of cases, people usually require intensive treatment to understand why their behavior is unhealthy. Although hoarding is very personal and varies from case to case, there are concrete symptoms that people will exhibit which can help others spot a hoarder.

One such symptom is when someone excessively acquires items that they have no use or space for. A second is having an inability to discard things that they are holding onto, regardless of whether those items have any value or not. Hoarders will grow upset at any attempts to try to discard the things that they are holding onto. Another symptom is a tendency toward indecisiveness, perfectionism, avoidance, procrastination, and problems with planning and organizing. All of these can vary from person to person, but they will all play a factor in any case of hoarding.

What Do Hoarders Hoard?

What people hoard and why is different for each individual. People can hoard anything, but there are certain things that some are more likely to hoard than others. In many cases, people hoard things such as newspapers and books. They may also hoard containers like boxes and plastic bags. Sometimes, individuals will hoard garbage and waste products. There are even cases of people who hoard animals. However, what people hoard is usually related to why they hoard.

Why Do Hoarders Hoard?

There are a plethora of reasons why people may become hoarders, but just as there are common items that are hoarded, there are also reasons that tend to be more common than others.

One of the most common reasons that people hoard anything is because they think that it is unique or that it will be valuable in the future. Many people also hoard on the basis of sentimental value rather than fiscal value. People will hold onto things that remind them of an event or time in the past that they associate with happiness and therefore try to acquire everything relating to that memory in order to hold onto that feeling.

People may also hold onto things for the simple reason that they feel safe around the items that they hoard. There’s no place like home, especially when you have filled it with things that make you feel a placidity of mind.

Lastly, some people hoard simply because they do not want to waste anything. This is especially true of people who hoard garbage or waste because they believe that they may have a use for it in the future, even when this is unlikely or unrealistically true.

Every hoarder has different reasons for why he or she hoards. Oftentimes, in order to be helped, they need treatment from professionals to help them find the source of their hoarding and overcome it. Many cases of hoarding are related to OCD, further exemplifying that the disorder can require intensive treatments to help someone make a breakthrough. Nevertheless, rest assured that it can be done. People who are suffering from hoarding disorder should seek professional help to overcome this disorder.

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Alexis Dent is an essayist, author, and entrepreneur. Her work is primarily focused on mental illness, relationships, and pop culture. You can find her writing in Washington Post, Greatist, Harper’s Bazaar, Marie Claire, and more.
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