The mind of the compulsive hoarder

Compulsive hoarding is also sometimes referred to as the Hoard and Clutter Syndrome, or the Packrat Syndrome. Whatever name it is given, it is a debilitating illness that endangers the health and lives of its sufferers, as well as destroying their social lives, and very often their financial affairs too. Many hoarders find that they cannot hold down a regular job. This is because of the fact that one of the symptoms of chronic compulsive hoarding is the inability to be able to make decisions. Simple every day work tasks and routines therefore take much longer for hoarders to complete. They also suffer from the delusion that they are undervalued and under-appreciated.

Hoarder’s homes become virtually uninhabitable because of the sheer volume of clutter which can reach such large proportions that it stops rooms being used for their proper function, (bedrooms, bathrooms, toilets and kitchens), and makes movement around the house almost impossible.

There is no particular rhyme or reason as to what it is that hoarders collect. It is generally a mixture of various worthless junk; but to a hoarder, this worthless junk has a value that may be either financial or emotional, and they feel a certainty that they cannot afford to part with the junk, as they believe it is sure to come in useful one day.

The clutter that litters hoarder’s houses often becomes damp, mouldy, and attracts pests such as rats and cockroaches. Worse still, if the hoarder is one that hoards animals, the house may soon become littered with rotting food, urine and faeces.

One study recently undertaken has shown that up to 80% up hoarders grew up with parents who were hoarders themselves. As children they learnt never to throw anything away that may one day be useful. They take these lessons to heart and it gives them the foundation for developing a chronic hoarding syndrome themselves in later life.

As well as being reluctant to throw anything away, hoarders often develop a compulsion to acquire things. If the hoarder has sufficient money, they will go on a buying binge, often buying huge quantities of one item or another. The internet has made this sort of compulsion much easier to satisfy as it makes it much simpler to make purchases anonymously. In some instances, if the hoarder does not have the finance, they may stoop to theft to acquire what it is that their compulsion demands.

Because their houses are in such a state of chaos, and are often offensive to outsiders, hoarders never encourage people to visit them. This leads to the destruction of any social life that they may have had. They become recluses and sink even further into their own worlds and become more and more isolated.

The problem with hoarders is that they are blind to the fact that their hoarding compulsion is ruining their lives. They refuse to accept that they are hoarding anything, maintaining that it is all useful material that will one day benefit them. It is inadvisable to try and reason with a hoarder; even if you think that you know them very well. You will find them to be irrational, and they will refuse even the smallest criticism that their hoarding is causing any sort of problem.

The best course of action that you can take to help a hoarder is to involve a professional practitioner who will devise a course of cognitive behavioural therapy to try and rehabilitate the sufferer. These courses have a high success rate although the success is not based on a cure, but on learning how to manage the affliction.