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Hoarding Disorder | An Explanation Of Hoarding & Hoarders

How Hoarding Disorder Starts

Hoarding disorder can affect men and women of any age or financial status.  In fact, it is currently unclear among the experts what specifically may trigger hoarding disorder.  However, doctors and psychologists have created a list of risk factors that may contribute to the full onset of hoarding disorder.  These include:

  • Family History – Hoarding disorder suffers tend to have a strong family history of hoarding, though it is not clear if compulsive hoarding is a genetic trait or a learned activity.
  • Age – Hoarding disorder normally begins to manifest during adolescence around the age of 13-14.  However, hoarding behavior at that age may be so subtle that it goes unnoticed.  However, it is not uncommon to see hoarding disorder in younger children (such as saving broken toys, empty beverage containers, disposable plastic cutlery, etc.), and the condition has been known to onset at any age.
  • Stressful Events – Highly stressful events in life, such as the death of a family member, divorce, natural disaster, and the like may be very difficult for some to cope with.  Hoarding disorder may manifest during or after such events.
  •  Alcoholism – It is common knowledge among experts that about 50% of hoarders have a history of alcohol abuse and dependence.
  •  Social Isolation – A two-edged sword, social isolation is both a risk factor and consequence of hoarding disorder.  Those who have withdrawn from friends and family may begin hoarding, and become even more isolated because of the disorder.

Unfortunately, these risk factors are so common that it is nearly impossible to diagnose those at risk until after symptoms have begun to manifest.

Symptoms of Hoarding Disorder

Hoarding disorder manifests in many different ways and can include a wide variety of items including trash, junk, food, animals, and virtually anything else.  Some sufferers may only collect single items, such as paperclips, while other may collect anything they can get their hands on.
Symptoms of severe hoarding disorder may include:

  • Cluttered Living Space – Hoarders often obtain so much that their tables, counters, sinks, bathtubs, furniture, and even walking space is completely unusable and covered with junk.
  • Inability To Discard Trash – Hoarders often keep things that others would simply throw away, such as old newspapers, paper plates, take-out containers, junk mail, etc.  In fact, many hoarders may even ritually examine their trash to make sure nothing has been thrown away by accident.
  • Inability To Organize – Hoarding disorder sufferers often are completely unable to organize the items in their homes, and straightening up may consist entirely of moving piles of things around without discarding anything.
  •  Time Management – Many people suffering from hoarding disorder have trouble focusing on their daily activities or making normal daily decisions.
  • Emotional Distress – Hoarding disorder often associates itself with depression, shame, embarrassment, loss of social life, and paranoia – especially where their possessions are concerned.

This is not a complete list of possible symptoms by far because hoarding disorder can be as unique as the individual suffering from it and many symptoms can vary between people.

Complications Of Hoarding Disorder

Hoarding disorder is usually considered to be a type of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), which is a condition that carries many unique complications.  Hoarding disorder, however, has a whole different set of complications involved, which include:

  • Trip-And-Fall Hazards – The compulsive need to collect and store items in the home create a highly increased risk of falling.  As an added risk the social isolation that accompanies hoarding disorder can delay a friend or family member from finding an injured hoarder.
  • Fire Hazards – The clutter that hoarders collect are often extremely flammable (such as paper products and clothing), increasing the risk of a devastating fire.  Items may also be piled in front of windows, doors, or other escape routes, adding to the risk of personal injury or death during a fire.
  •  Health Risks – Many hoarders may collect food stuffs, animals, and other objects that may be hazardous over time.  Unsanitary living conditions may lead to an increased risk of infection or vermin infestation that could be very hazardous to an individual’s health and well-being.
  •  Inability To Perform Tasks – Hoarders often amass items in such volume that there is no room left in their home to bathe, cook meals, or observe proper daily hygiene.
  • Family Conflict – Hoarders also normally suffer from family and marital problems due to their compulsive hoarding which can exacerbate existing feelings of isolation, loneliness, depression, or other unhealthy emotional conditions.
    Complications of hoarding disorder can also vary, but nearly all cases include at least a few of the above.

Treating Compulsive Hoarding Disorder

Hoarding disorder is a condition that carries powerful emotional and psychological repercussions, and as such it is best to speak with a mental health professional to develop a treatment program.  Lifestyle changes, support groups, and therapy have all been shown to be successful forms of treatment, and many hoarders have found success with certain antidepressant medications, such as Paxil.

One of the most important points of hoarding disorder treatment is removing the clutter and returning the hoarder’s home to a livable and sanitary condition.  This can be difficult however, as many hoarders tend to collect items that have become hazardous with age, such as food stuffs.  Other health concerns like sharp objects, vermin infestation, or biological waste may also be present.

For these reasons it may be best to contact a professional sanitation service to assist with the cleaning effort.  In Arizona, the most trusted hazardous material removal service is BioTeamAZ.  BioTeamAZ’s long history of experience with hazardous waste ensures the highest level of sanitation and customer satisfaction.  Contact us today.

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