Managing a compulsive hoarding disorder

At what stage does collecting clutter turn into compulsive hoarding?

The two conditions start off as being one and the same thing. However, you know that the habit of collecting clutter has become one of compulsive hoarding when the accumulated clutter reaches levels whereby it takes over your home, preventing the use of a home’s facilities, such as bedrooms, bathrooms, and kitchens, for the purpose for which they were designed.

To many people this may sound somewhat improbable, but the truth of the matter is that it is indeed, fact. Houses that have been cleared of clutter have been known to contain in excess of 20 tons of junk, including rather amazingly, in one hoarders house in New York, USA, more than enough spare parts to build a model T Ford several times over.

The thing about the clutter that compulsive hoarders amass is that it is in the main useless, worthless junk, although to the hoarder, it is invaluable. Hoarders often “fall in love” with their junk. The compulsion to hoard it is based on the belief that it will one day come in very useful for a particular situation, even if the goods themselves are broken or damaged.
Managing compulsive hoarding disorder

This level of compulsive hoarding is a variant of an OCD, or an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. It is a recognised illness, and there are specially trained people one can turn to for treatment. However, getting a hoarder to accept that they need treatment is in itself quite a feat.

People suffering from compulsive hording disorder find it impossible to even consider relinquishing the hold on any of their hoard, even though it may be making their everyday living conditions almost intolerable. The very thought of discarding any of it will bring on severe feelings of exposure, inadequacy and a deep rooted fear that they may be discarding something that will one day be indispensible.

Hoarders are fully aware of both what it is that they are doing, and also the effect that it is having on their lives. They also understand that visitors to their home will be appalled and disgusted by the mess and chaos. For this very reason, hoarders shut themselves away from society, very often becoming quite recluse like, and they refuse to let colleagues, friends, and family into their homes.

It is however quite usual for a hoarder to go out to work, although they will often feel that their jobs are worthless, and that their skills are undervalued and under-used. Hoarders do however find it very difficult to make any sort of decisions, and are subject to severe procrastination. For this reason, they are not very efficient in their jobs, taking longer than any of their colleagues to complete their tasks, and often starting earlier in the day and finishing later than anyone else in order to try and match the pace of others.

There are specialists who are trained to rehabilitate hoarders, and their treatments are effective. They utilise CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy) which teaches the hoarder to be able to recognise and isolate their compulsions, enabling them to deal with them in other ways, and allowing the gradual discarding of the hoard. It is important to start by taking small steps, leading in time to larger steps and at more frequent intervals. In this way, as the hoard is slowly disbanded, the hoarder’s homes are gradually returned back to some semblance of normality.

It is unlikely that the urge to hoard can ever be completely cured once it has been acquired, but however, the good news is that with the proper corrective treatment, the hoarding compulsion can be managed.