Hoarding behaviors can start as early as teenage years, although adults over 50 are more likely to get the assistance they need. Hoarding can be a lifelong struggle that can be debilitating if left untreated. Since most hoarders tend to live alone and often do not allow any form of social interaction and engagement at the household as a result of shame and guilt, most hoarders tend to suffer in silence, away from friends and loved ones.
People who hoard tend to minimize the scale of their problem, so it can be difficult to assess the extent of the issue without making a site visit. For anyone suffering from hoarding issues, psychological assistance and social help are paramount if not necessary. For a hoarder to accept the assistance they require, they must not feel judged or ostracized. Otherwise, hoarders that feel attacked, ambushed and judged often tend to retreat further into their own cluttered world and worse still, it could make the problem potentially worse.
The effects of hoarding
Hoarding not only places the life of the hoarder at risk, but it also places the people that have to deal with the clutter in jeopardy. Such people may include spouses and children of hoarders, friends, family, as well as neighbors. The difficulties associated with hoarding as a disorder can be social, physical, as well as mental or psychological.
People that suffer from hoarding difficulties are less likely to take care of their physical well-being. As a matter of fact, hoarders have been known to neglect themselves and their environments to the point that the hoarding can cause the development of some serious health issues.
Additionally, hoarders have a harder time accessing health services such as clinics. Because hoarding causes environmental concerns such as poor quality of indoor air, hoarders are more likely to report a wide array of chronic and medical health related problems. Most conditions that hoarders experience include asthma and various respiratory issues, cardiovascular concerns, arthritis, seizure, injuries, slips and falls, as well as sleep apnea.
Hoarding may not necessarily be tied to the medical conditions stated above, however, it is clear that that the clutter interferes with one’s capacity to live a quality lifestyle. Furthermore, the risk for elderly hoarders is much more severe than it is in younger hoarders. Older adults may have pre-existing medical conditions that are likely to worsen as a result of living in an unsanitary environment. Should an elderly hoarding patient require ambulance assistance, the clutter can make access to a patient tricky, further placing the individual in more danger.
The presence of a significant number of vermin such as rats and pets in hoarding households is also an issue of major concern. Animal urine and feces are typically trapped among the stored possessions. As the animal refuse decays over a length of time, dangerous gasses such as ammonia can be released into the atmosphere, affecting the quality of air, which impacts breathing negatively.
When a person is unable to access vital parts of the household such as the kitchen or the bathroom, self-neglect becomes a real concern. The lack of access to hot water or a sink simply for the purpose of cleaning makes self-care difficult as one is unable to clean up, cook or wash clothes. Self-neglect can become worse especially if the person is isolated and increasingly avoids human contact. Alternatively, self-neglect can make the hoarding worse as the individual’s acquisition behavior can begin to spiral out of control.
Families are destroyed
Hoarding can impact the family negatively and can lead to the loss of what many would consider a normal family life. Family members and friends of people that hoard often experience embarrassment, shame, and worry that is linked to the hoarding behavior. In many cases, children that have grown up in hoarding households often experience compulsive hoarding difficulties and urges later on in life. Hoarding erodes normal life and normal things such as eating communally at the table or inviting friends over starts to become a thing of the past. This can breed resentment and hate among family members particularly if the issue of hoarding is not well understood or discussed openly.
It compromises the care of others
The care of children or spouses living with a hoarder is compromised. Children may experience a hard time interacting with others or doing their homework as a result of limited space or surfaces for working. In extreme hoarding cases, it may prove difficult for children and spouses to live, let alone sleep, in a comfortable environment. When the situation is left unchecked, it may cause a split in the family where spouses divorce and children are taken away from the care of their hoarding parents.
Housing is compromised
Hoarding behaviors place the integrity of the house at risk. Not only does hoarding take away any aesthetic value of a house, it also compromises the ability for amenities such as gas, water, and electricity to run effectively. Most hoarding households generally experience a higher risk of faults developing such as the growth of mold and mildew, house fires, and dangerous gas leaks. Many housing associations require homes to have some reasonable access; therefore, hoarders are more likely to lose their homes or experience eviction as a result of compulsive hoarding tendencies.
Cleanups for hoarders
Cleaning up and clearing the clutter is a vital step to seeking help. Before any cleaning can commence, the individual must be willing to explore the root of the hoarding problem. Regardless of how much a hoarder prepares in anticipation for the cleanup day, the reality of throwing the clutter out can be overwhelming and difficult to handle. Hoarders have been known to break out in tears or lash out at the cleaning crew. As such, it is important to show sensitivity towards a hoarder; otherwise, they can break down, shut down completely and refuse to proceed with the cleanup process.
Tips for clearing clutter
Approach the issue methodically; ensure that there is a viable strategy in place before the process commences.
Clear up one space or room at ; perhaps you can start by clearing up the most important areas such as the bedroom, and kitchen before proceeding to the other spaces.
Set aside time to clear the clutter each day. The best way to this is to establish a system and stick to it each day.
Once everything is packed up, ensure that it is removed from the space immediately.
If a hoarder shows signs of difficulty p with an object, you can place it in a review section for re-evaluation in a few months or weeks. If the item is still as important then, the hoarder can be allowed to retain it.