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Hoarding Disorder - The Basics and Ways To Help a Loved One

Hoarding Disorder - The Basics and Ways To Help a Loved One

Hoarding disorder (HD) is a mental health condition characterized by excessive junk and difficulty parting with possessions, even if they have little or no value. People with HD often feel a strong emotional attachment to their belongings and find it difficult to discard them.

What causes Hoarding Disorder?

The cause of Hoarding Disorder is unknown, but it may be related to genetics, brain chemistry, and environmental factors. Some people may be more likely to develop HD due to a combination of these factors, so it's all different for each individual. However, some possible causes of HD include the following:

  • Genetics and family history: Hoarding may be passed down from family members, and this may be due to genetic factors or learned behaviors. Some experts claim that HD may be related to a history of medical conditions in the family.
  • Brain chemistry: Hoarding may be related to changes in the brain's chemistry, which may be due to a difference in how the brain processes information or handles emotions. Compulsive hoarding is often seen in individuals with Autism spectrum disorder or Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
  • Environmental factors: Hoarding may be triggered or exacerbated by environmental factors, such as a stressful event or traumatic experience.

If you or someone you know is struggling with HD, it is important to seek professional help. A qualified mental health professional can help you understand the cause of HD and develop a treatment plan that manages to address your specific needs. Many treatments are available for hoarding, including Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), medication, and support groups.

For more information on HD, please visit the American Psychiatric Association website. You can find detailed information on hoarding, resources, and treatment options there.

What are the symptoms of Hoarding Disorder?

The symptoms of hoarding differ from one person to another, but they may include excessive junk and trash. Hoarders have difficulty throwing away stuff, a strong emotional attachment to belongings, and guilt about discarding items.

Hoarding Disorder is related to clutter that interferes with everyday activities

Hoarders' homes may contain all sorts of items: books, magazines, boxes, plastic bags, food, and clothing, among others. Piles of trash and junk may lead to multiple hazardous situations inside a hoarded property, including the risk of accidental fire, as people often store large amounts of combustible materials in their homes.

Difficulty parting with possessions, regardless of their value 

Hoarding is a condition in which people have difficulty parting with possessions, regardless of their value. Hoarders may feel emotional attachments to their belongings, become anxious or guilty about getting rid of items, and have trouble organizing and dealing with their possessions.

Strong emotional attachment to belongings

Strong emotional attachments are one of the main reasons hoarding is such a difficult situation. Most hoarders' belongings are not just material objects but also represent essential memories and aspects of their lives.

The Dangers Associated with Hoarding Disorder

Hoarding can severely compromise an individual's ability to carry out and accomplish everyday activities inside their house, which also impacts how they develop socially. Hoarders often have excessive amounts of clutter and junk in their homes, leading to unsafe and unsanitary living conditions.

Mold growth, rotten food, rodents, cockroaches and other pests, and even dead animals are typically present in hoarded properties. It can be costly, both financially and emotionally. The accumulation of clutter can also make it challenging to get around the property, which can be dangerous for elderly or disabled individuals.

The risk of accidental falls, fire, and infections are hazards commonly present in a hoarder's home. In some cases, hoarding can lead to eviction or homelessness. It also represents a dangerous environment for pets, as animals may become trapped or injured in clutter and junk. 

How to Help Cleanup Hoarding Situations

If you know someone struggling with hoarding, there are ways you can help. The most important thing is to be respectful and understanding. The hoarders must be comfortable and safe during the cleanup process. Here are some tips for cleaning up a hoarding situation:

  • Start slow and take your time
  • Be patient and understanding.
  • Respect the person's emotions and personal space.
  • Make sure the person is comfortable with the process.
  • Be sure to have a plan for carrying out hoarding cleanup.
  • Take breaks as needed.
  • Declutter as many items as you can, but do it gradually.
  • Please do not force the person to get rid of anything they are not comfortable parting with.
  • If this process results in too much stress, consider hiring a professional cleaning company to help you.

If you think you, a loved one, or a family member may be suffering from hoarding, seeking professional help is essential. Treatment options for hoarding include:

  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): It's the most common treatment for HD. CBT helps hoarders change their thoughts and behaviors, contributing to hoarding and learning about organizational skills.
  • Medication: It may also be prescribed to help treat HD. Some people with HD may benefit from antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications.
  • Support groups: Learning from other people's experiences with hoarding may help victims understand the reasoning behind their behavior. People can learn from others dealing with similar challenges in a support group because hoarding situations are perceived as embarrassing and shameful. It's good to know that they are not alone in their feelings of stress and isolation.

How a Professional Cleaning Company Like Bio-One Can Help

If you're struggling to let go of your belongings, even if they don't have much value, you may suffer from hoarding. It is a complex mental illness that can be difficult to overcome without professional help. The good news is there are many effective treatments available, and with the proper support, people with HD can reclaim their lives. If you or someone you love needs to address a hoarding situation, please don't hesitate to contact us for help.

Hoarding cleanup - Before and after - Bio-One of Pittsburgh
Hoarding cleanup - Before and after - Bio-One of Pittsburgh

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