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How To Help A Hoarder Get Back To A Happier & Healthier Life

How To Convince A Hoarder They Need Help

Hoarders usually are completely unaware that they have a problem.  Even if a hoarder’s “collection” has overtaken their homes and made it completely unlivable, most hoarders are still convinced that their possessions have value and use or will in the future.  A hoarder also tends to be very defensive about their behavior, which can make helping them very difficult.

Convincing a hoarder they have a problem is a delicate affair, and it may be a good idea to consult with a doctor or a mental health professional to plan an effective approach to the problem.

Gathering friends and family for an intervention – a meeting in which loved ones discuss an individual’s behavior and the impact it has on their life – is often recommended to help convince a hoarder that they need help.  However, the complexity of compulsive hoarding disorder may need to include a different plan altogether.

Family & Friend Support

A hoarder may require a lot of attention and support during the treatment process.  However, it is noted by most doctors and psychiatrists that directly intervening with a hoarder’s treatment program can be detrimental.  A hoarder should never be pressured to do anything they are not ready to do.

Once treatment has begun, it is best to offer nothing more than comfort and encouragement.  Friends and family may also be encouraged to attend therapy sessions or group therapy.  No other direct action should be taken without consulting with the attending therapist.

Helping With The Most Important Treatment

At some point in the therapy friends and family may also be asked to help a hoarder clean, organize, and sanitize their home.  This can be a very traumatic time for a hoarder, and they may benefit greatly from having their support network there to help.

However, a hoarder’s home often contains health risks such as mold, chemicals, waste, and animal infestation.  For that reason it is highly recommended that you take all of the necessary steps to lower your risk of injury or infection – including disposable gloves, goggles, and dust masks – while you are cleaning.

You may also want to consult with a professional sanitation service, such as BioTeamAZ in Arizona.  Hazardous waste is best handled and disposed of by those trained to do so safely and effectively.  Contact BioTeamAZ today for service or consultation.

Hoarding Treatment Options | General Therapy & Medications

Diagnosing A Hoarder For Treatment

Diagnosing a hoarder can be very difficult because compulsive hoarders often don’t even know that they have a problem.  Moreover, hoarders are often defensive or even combative when their behavior is called into question.  But to most people a compulsive hoarder is easy to spot as:

  • Someone who collects large volumes of items that have no use or value.
  • Someone who struggles to live a normal life around their compulsive collecting.
  •  Someone who cannot make use of their home because they have too much junk piled around.
  •  Someone who feels ashamed of their home and living conditions.
  •  Someone who is uncomfortable allowing others into their homes or touching their items.
  •  Someone who cannot properly organize and keep their home clean.
  •  Someone who is unable to make decisions about what to do with their possessions.
  •  Someone who excessively procrastinates in dealing with their hoarding problem.

The challenge lies in a compulsive hoarder’s belief that the items that they collect may have use or value in the future.  As an example, many people compulsively collect newspapers under the belief that one day the mundane daily news could be a valuable collectable.

Mild cases of hoarding are common and do not generally have much effect on the hoarder’s daily life.  However, hoarding disorder tends to become more severe as time passes, and extreme conditions can be devastating.

Severe hoarding can result in loss of living space, the inability to follow routine hygiene regimens, the inability to cook, eat, or sleep around the mess, unsanitary living conditions, fire hazards, and many other health concerns.  When hoarding becomes this extreme it is very important to visit with a doctor or mental health professional for a diagnosis and proper hoarding treatment.

Hoarding Treatment Medications

Unfortunately there hasn’t been much research into effective medications for compulsive hoarding treatment.  However, doctors and mental health experts usually recommend an antidepressant known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs.  Paroxetine, commonly called Paxil, is the most common medication used in hoarding treatment.

Results of using medication to treat hoarding disorder have been mixed, and while there have been many success stories, the medication route for hoarding treatment doesn’t work for everyone.

Hoarding Treatment Therapy

Therapy is the most effective tool in hoarding treatment, though it can be a long and difficult experience.  Though some mental health professionals take different approaches in hoarding treatment, the normal method of treatment includes:

  • Exploration of the compulsive need to hoard.
  •  Learning to organize possessions to help with the decision to discard items.
  •  Improving decision-making skills.
  •  Removing clutter from the home during in-home therapist visits.
  • Practicing relaxation and self-confidence exercises.
  •  Allowing periodic home visits to help maintain healthy living habits.

Many therapists also encourage family members and friends to participate in treatment sessions to help the hoarder understand the impact of their need to hoard and for ongoing moral support.

Therapy can be very time-consuming as it takes time for hoarders to come to terms with their disorder and progress through the stages of treatment.  Therapists usually avoid making their clients feel uncomfortable by forcing them to proceed before they’re ready.  Such actions can be detrimental to the hoarding treatment in general.

The Most Important Step Of Hoarding Treatment

Once a hoarder decides that it is time for change their home must be de-cluttered, organized and sanitized.  However it is important to remember that hoarding often carries serious health and safety concerns, such as:

  • Moldy garbage or food stuffs.
  • Animal (and possibly human) feces and urine.
  •  Hazardous chemicals.
  •  Decomposing animal carcasses, such as rats.
  • Bug, mouse, and other vermin nests and leavings.

For this reason it is recommended that you consult with a professional hazardous waste removal team to assist during the clean-up effort.

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.

Hoarding Definition, Warnings, Symptoms, & Advice For Hoarders

The Definition Of Hoarding

Hoarding is a specific subset of obsessive compulsive disorder.  One suffering from the condition compulsively collects items, usually storing them in them in their own home.  It is normally considered a progressive condition which begins at or near adolescence and increases in severity with age.  However, the exact parameters of hoarding disorder tend to vary between individuals, making it difficult to give an all-inclusive definition of hoarding.

Hoarding should not be confused with simple collecting.  A collector tends to stick with a certain single item or theme, budget their money to responsibly add to their collection, keep things organized and clean, and take great pride in their items.  Hoarders tend to keep things of little or no value, add to their collection compulsively with an inability to keep it clean or organized, and normally experience emotional distress due to their items.  This distress can range from shame and embarrassment to extreme depression and paranoia.

In the most severe cases, a hoarder may pile clutter and trash on their furniture, kitchen appliances, bathtubs, sinks, and walking space, making their home unlivable and presenting a myriad of health hazards from unsanitary conditions and the inability to perform basic hygiene rituals.

Symptoms & Warning Signs Of Hoarding

Hoarding disorder can present in many different ways and often begins with very subtle behaviors that make it difficult to spot before it has reached a more extreme level.  Hoarding also has a habit of becoming more difficult to treat as it progresses, making the identification of symptoms and warning signs important at an early stage.  These include:

  •  Genetics may play a role in the onset of hoarding disorder.  Having a parent, grandparent, sibling, aunt, or uncle who has suffered from compulsive hoarding is a strong indicator of the condition.
  • Many who suffer from hoarding disorder show signs of the condition at an early age.  Children and early teens may begin collecting or hiding broken toys, clothing that no longer fits, etc. This is another indicator that hoarding may be a problem as they grow older.
  •  Hoarding may be considered a kind of addiction, and individuals with an addictive personality may be more prone to hoarding.  In fact, nearly half of all documented hoarders have a history of substance abuse or dependence – especially alcoholism.
  • Compulsive collecting of clutter or an unwillingness to discard trash is another starting symptom of hoarding disorder.  Compulsive hoarders often suffer from the inability to organize and get rid of things.
  • Hoarders may also collect so much junk that they lose living space in their homes.  Often a hoarder’s collection will overwhelm their furniture, floor space, sinks, appliances, beds, bathtubs, cars, and porches.  This creates unsanitary and unlivable conditions in which a hoarder may not be able to cook, eat, bathe, or even sleep.
  • Emotional distress and social isolation are both a trigger and symptom of hoarding disorder.  Hoarding can present from the inability to cope with extreme stress, such as the death of a family member, natural disaster, or divorce.  Likewise, hoarders often experience severe depression, anxiety, loneliness, shame, and paranoia.

If you or a loved one show signs or symptoms of hoarding it is best to speak with a licensed mental health professional.

Hoarding Disorder Treatment Options

Hoarders are often unable to exercise self-treatment without the guidance of a professional, and even with the help of a psychiatrist or psychologist it can be a long and traumatic process.  However, treatment programs do exist that have been very successful in helping hoarders get back to a normal life.  This often requires continual support from friends and family, lifestyle changes, and the ever-important step of clearing out the clutter.

Be aware, however, that a hoarder’s home may be rife with health hazards.  Mold from aging food, animal waste, vermin infestation, fire hazards, and more may be present.  For this reason, it is not generally recommended that the cleaning and sanitation of a hoarder’s home be done without professionals.

BioTeamAZ is Arizona’s most highly recommended experts of hoarding clean-up and disposal.  Their thorough cleaning and sanitation methods can help you rest assured that your loved one has a safe and comfortable environment in which to recover.  Contact BioTeamAZ today.

Hoarding Clean Up | Tips For Cleaning Up Years Of Accumulation

Tips For Cleaning Up A Hoarder’s Home

The first and most difficult step is actually starting the job.  Many may immediately feel overwhelmed by the sheer scope of hoarding clean up.  Many hoarders have been accumulating junk, garbage, and other object for many year, and it can often be shocking to see the condition of their home.  This means that it could be an all-day job, or possibly several days.

The best piece of advice for getting started is to just get started.  Other tips for hoarding clean up include:

  • Protect Yourself – Disposable gloves, dust masks, and goggles are an absolute must during hoarding clean up to avoid dangerous exposure to mold, parasites, and other health concerns which may be present in a hoarder’s home.
  • Get A Dumpster – You will likely find yourself with hundreds of trash bags for disposal; make sure you have a place to put them.  Many city sanitation services have large dumpsters available for rent and may include haul-off and disposal fees.
  • Start Outside – The exterior of the home will likely become the best place to organize the contents of the home, starting there is the best way to make sure you have room to sort and separate later.
  • Pick A Room – The bathrooms and kitchen will likely be the most difficult and hazardous to clean.  Tackle them first or leave them for last – the decision is yours.
  •  De-Clutter First – Intensive cleaning, such as scrubbing walls, dusting, and vacuuming can wait until all of the garbage and clutter are out of the room.
  •  Work Top To Bottom – Start with objects stacked up on tables, beds, chairs, etc. and work down toward clutter on the floor.  Closets will likely be extremely disorganized and stuffed full – leave them for last.
  • Separate – Hoarders do not often differentiate between what is trash and what isn’t.  Separate items into three groups:  Trash, maybe keep, and definitely keep.
  • Sort – Bag up the trash and throw it in the dumpster.  Remove maybe keep and definitely keep items from the room and put them in designated spots for further evaluation. You may also want to remove larger items, like furniture, for more intensive cleaning.
  • Move On – When the first room is free of clutter, move on to another and start again.
  •  Intensive Cleaning – When the entire house is clutter-free begin the intensive cleaning step.  Again, start at the top with ceilings and ceiling fans.  Move on to walls, windows, and any furniture left in the room.  Finish with the floor and keep in mind that the carpet may need to be pulled up and disposed of – if so, trash it and scrub the floor boards.
  •  Address Repairs – Structural repairs, painting, and re-carpeting may need to be done before the home is ready to be moved back into.  It may be best to have the home professionally evaluated to ensure that it is truly safe to move in.
  • Clean Up Items – Once the trash is gone, do any necessary cleaning to other items and move them back into the home, donate unwanted items to charity, or have a garage sale.

Extreme Conditions Needing Professional Sanitation

Some hoarding clean up may be too hazardous for an amateur cleaning crew.  Excessive mold, animal waste, and other dangerous substances may require a professional hazardous material removal and sanitation service to ensure the job is done safely and completely.

Arizona’s most experienced service for hoarding clean up is BioTeamAZ.  Put your mind at rest and know that your home will be left a safe and healthy environment, contact BioTeamAZ now.

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