We all know someone who holds on to stuff for too long. People who have one too many overstuffed closets in their houses, who buy more than they sell or give away. But there’s a clear line between a pack rat and a hoarder.
Hoarding is a psychological disorder that can lead to a greatly diminished quality of life. Hoarders deserve to be treated seriously and with respect. Finding a supportive recovery group to join can be a game changer for a hoarder, and community resources can mean the difference between a free life and a burdened one.
Learn the essentials of supporting a hoarder in the following guide.
What Is Hoarding?
Hoarding is a disorderrecognized by the Anxiety & Depression Association of America. For a long time, hoarders were seen merely as people with poor impulse control who responded to psychological stressors by obsessively holding onto objects.
We know now that hoarding is a clinical condition with diagnosable symptoms, which means there are cures, remedies, and strategies to alleviate and help the people who suffer from it. If you or someone you know deals with hoarding disorder, hold on to your hope. Treatment plans are available, and many of them you can start on your own.
While the symptomatology of hoarding has been outlined by clinical professionals, its causes are less clear. There are risk factors associated with the development of hoarding disorder:
- Family History
- Stress in Personal Life
But not everyone with the tendency to collect, who may deal with stress, who may even have a family history of hoarding develops the disorder. The American Psychiatric Association notes that hoarding disorder is a newly burgeoning field in the study of human neurobiology. That means that answers to these questions are not quite here, but they are likely on their way.
Recognizing The Warning Signs of Hoarding
Fortunately, though the exact provenance of hoarding disorder is unclear, clinicians and researchers have been able to identify several warning signs associated with the development of the condition:
- Animal hoarding, or constantly adopting and rescuing new pets.
- Excessive collection of possessions and a stubborn unwillingness to part with them.
- A persistent inability to assign rational value to objects, monetary or personal.
- The thought of discarding objects or parting with pets causes disproportionate anxiety and psychic dread.
- The accumulation of possessions begins to impinge upon daily faculties such as eating and cleaning oneself.
- An increased tendency toward isolation; not wanting to invite others over or leave home for fear of separating with possessions.
Holding on to a few too many possessions in and of itself isn’t a problem. Hoarding becomes disordered when it begins to interfere with relationships and the normal, healthy functioning of daily life.
A 2018 study published in World Psychiatry notes that what separates mere over-collecting from disordered hoarding is the consistent and substantial compromise of hoarded objects of their intended use. In other words, when the objects being collected no longer serve their intended purpose, there’s a problem.
Supporting a Hoarder: The Do’s and Don’ts
If you have a hoarder in your life, your inclination may likely be to jump into the fray and save them from themselves. While that is a noble instinct, it won’t always lead to helpful results.
If you really want to help a hoarder in your life, read, memorize, and internalize the following do’s and don’ts.
What to Do
Don’t assume you know what the hoarder in your life is going through. Psychological conditions like hoarding disorder are often the combined result of many factors, some stemming from childhood and some as arbitrary as passing stress.
Read up on how hoarding disorder works and pay special attention to what it feels like to live with the condition. It will make you more empathetic when interacting with your loved one.
Encourage the Hoarder to Seek Professional Advice
This is a tricky but necessary step in helping your loved one who struggles with hoarding. You shouldn’t be as blatant as to tell them to “get a therapist.” That will make them feel judged, and they’ll shut down.
Instead, remind them that others share their struggles, and there are networks of professionals trained to offer compassionate help.
Create a Cleaning Chain from Easiest to Hardest
If your loved one is having a hard time even opening up to the idea of cleaning and organizing, make a list – but not just a list of rooms to be cleaned or items to be tossed. Make a list of items by type, organized from easiest to get rid of (boxes, trash) to hardest to get rid of (photos, gifts, etc.).
What Not to Do
Be Judgmental or Discouraging
What you meet the hoarder in your life with, they will return right to you. Don’t be judgmental or discouraging, because they will shut you out. Be compassionate, understanding, and patient.
Pressure Them to Let You Into Their Space
The worst thing you can do is pressure a hoarder to let you into their space. Often hoarders feel deep shame around the junk that they’ve amassed. If you pressure them to let you in to see it, they may react like get defensive. Cultivate the relationship slowly and allow them to invite you inside on their terms.
Offer to Clear Out Their Living Space for Them
There are plenty of high-quality junk removal services that specialize in clearing out spaces dominated by hoarders. But before you order one for your loved one, you must obtain their consent. Until they are ready to change their mindset, clearing out their space does nothing; they’ll merely fill it back up. They have to focus on the disorder itself before the junk.
The Benefits of Hoarding Support Groups
Joining a hoarding support group can be an amazing first step forward for the hoarder in your life. Research has shown that support groups effectively support individuals struggling with mental illness.
While support groups should not be taken as a substitute for therapy from a professional clinician, the two work great as complements. You receive different things from a therapist and a support group.
From a therapist, you can expect to learn about professionally-proven strategies for healing and symptom mitigation. They have the education and undertook the experience working with individuals like you to be able to engage you on the fine nuances of your condition.
But no one quite understands you like your peers. While a therapist can help you work toward bodily health, support groups can brighten your heart. Some of the many benefits of support groups for those struggling with hoarding disorder include:
- Plays a role in relapse prevention
- Can help individuals develop a better understanding of their condition
- Soothe feelings of isolation and aloneness
- Remind individuals that they aren’t the first ones to be struggling with their condition; others have fought and won better lives for themselves.
How To Find a Hoarder Support Group
When looking for the right hoarder support group, there are a lot of factors to consider. Some of those factors will be personal, but everyone should be aware of some general red flags and green flags.
What to Look for
- Led by a professional with experience and education
- Connection to an organization dedicated to hoarding disorder prevention and awareness
- A group that isn’t too big that you’ll be invisible or too small that you’ll stand out
- A group that prizes and prioritizes confidentiality
Red Flags to Avoid
- Hosted at a private residence or a non-communal, non-public location
- Charges a steep admission fee
- Led by a “professional” with no license or experience
- A long list of criteria for entry
Frequently Asked Questions
What Help Is There for Hoarders?
There are plenty of doctors and licensed mental health professionals that can help hoarders. There are also groups like the International OCD Foundation and Hoarders.com that can point you toward effective help.
What Is One Effective Intervention for a Person With Hoarding?
The best thing you can do for a loved one who hoards is listen to them. Be patient, allow them to develop trust in you, and help them at their speed.
Can a Social Worker Help a Hoarder?
Social workers can certainly step in and help with things that loved ones just aren’t qualified to do, like performing a wellness check or recommending professional psychiatric care.
What Is One Major Challenge of Treating Individuals With Hoarding Disorder?
One major challenge in treating hoarding disorder is the mysterious nature of the condition’s provenance. Until professionals understand why hoarding disorder presents itself, it will never be able to be fully treated.
Need Hoarder Cleanout Services in the Bay Area? We Can Help.
If you’re looking to help a loved one with a hoarding problem clean out their space, check out Nixxit’s hoarder cleanout services in the Bay Area, CA. Nixxit is a Certified Bay Area Green Business with years of experience helping folks living with hoarding disorder take control of their lives.
Need Help with a Hoarder Cleanout in the Bay Area, CA?
Nixxit Junk Removal can help with your hoarder cleanout needs in the Bay Area.
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