People are described as being compulsive hoarders when they collect large quantities of clutter, but hardly ever discard anything. The clutter itself has very little or no financial value, and would be considered by most people to be worthless junk. The compulsion to hoard can be so strong that eventually a hoarder’s place of residence becomes virtually uninhabitable because of the sheer volume of clutter that is hoarded in every nook and cranny in the house, often to the extent that the rooms are unusable for their proper function.
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In some people, who suffer from the most chronic hoarding disorder, their everyday function and behaviour can become significantly impaired; this can relate to their normal domestic activities around the home, and also their external activities if they go out to work, (which many hoarders do).
The compulsion to hoard can become so obsessive that a hoarder may often hang on to anything that has been loaned to them, and in some cases, the obsession to collect certain items, can lead to the hoarder stealing them. It is a fact that people afflicted with the hording compulsion actually believe that their clutter has real value, whereas 99% of the time it is entirely value-less.
It is not known why people start hoarding. In some cases it is something that began in their childhood and was controlled to an extent by their parents, only to attain full “release” once they left home and found their own accommodation. It is quite often the case that hoarders are lone individuals, as any potential partners become quickly disenchanted, and even horrified by the mess and chaos that is apparent in the hoarder’s place of residence. Sometimes, partners can also be affected by the obsession, but if there are any children in the home, then they are in danger from the unsanitary environment, and the safety hazards, including a heightened risk of fire.
Hoarding actually destroys the hoarder’s social life. They will usually not allow anybody into their home, friends or family alike. This is can be for two reasons. Firstly there is the acute embarrassment that some hoarders feel if anyone were to be allowed to see the squalor and chaos in which they live. Secondly however, some hoarders give little or no thought to others, or what others may think of them, they are actually afraid that outsiders may covert their hoard, worthless though it is in reality.
Compulsive hoarder behavioural patterns
There are people around who can assist; both with helping to rehabilitate a hoarder into a more normal pattern of behaviour, and also to actually help to clear the clutter from the residence a small amount at a time. It is important to take it in small steps. It is easier for the hoarder to begin to discard things gradually. The pace of discarding can be slowly accelerated as time goes on. However, it is really important, that any small measure of success is very loudly applauded. This helps the hoarder to feel better about what they are doing, (it is so very difficult for them to discard even the smallest of items), and it will help them to recover something of their self-confidence and self esteem if they believe that they are making constructive progress.
Compulsive hoarding is recognised today as special type of OCD (a Compulsive Obsessive Disorder), and there are Cognizant Behavioural Therapies (CBTs) that have been specially adapted to help a hoarder on the road to recovery. There are also some anti depressant drugs that have proved successful too.
If you know of anybody who is stricken with chronic hoarding, you should do your best to put them in touch with trained professionals who can try to help. Whilst any support you can offer may be appreciated, it may also be taken as interference. Hoarders can be quite possessive and vehement about their habits. It takes properly trained specialists to combat the condition. They are plentiful and easy to find if you search on the internet.