Hoarding: why I've spent Easter dealing with the after-effects of this disorder!
Updated: Jan 27
For many years, Easter has passed me by completely unnoticed, because up until now I've been far too ill to be able to appreciate or engage in it at all.
This year has been quite different though, and rather than spend the Easter break 'dying to stay alive' in bed, I have actually been able to be really active and, dare I say it, even productive as well!
But even though I have been enjoying the spring weather and getting on with things, I have not once forgotten about all those people that are suffering terribly with depression and other mental illnesses. This has all been at the forefront of my mind, because the happenings of the last few days have opened my eyes to yet another difficult and misunderstood mental health condition.
Ten days ago, the purchase of a house that we have been trying to buy for years, finally went through. In normal circumstances this would be a really exciting event, but the house was previously owned by a hoarder, so my sister and I have spent much of the last four days trying to sort it out because it's been left in an absolutely horrendous state.
The Environment Agency have already removed 10 tonnes of waste, rotting furniture and other items because it was packed floor to ceiling, and as well as being a terrible fire hazard it was also infested mice and rats.
The problem of 'The hoarder next-door' has left us frustrated, worried, and at times incredibly angry, but having been in the house over the last week and discovered the true extent of the problem we are now more saddened and confused than we are upset or irritated.
There are things stacked and hidden anywhere and everywhere, including rotting wine under the kitchen units (now smashed out), canned food untouched for years in cupboards, and all sorts of items packed deeply on shelves and surfaces.
The penchant in all of this seems to have been for car magazines which are hoarded in their thousands in the attic and airing cupboard which are both rammed and filled to bursting.
Although trying to sort this out is incredibly annoying and frankly disgusting, it made me want to understand the reasoning and thought processes involved in hoarding, so last night I looked it up on the internet.
Hoarding disorder is diagnosed when excessive saving and buying of items creates clutter which disrupts the person's ability to use living and work spaces.
Until recently, hoarding was thought to be a form of OCD but it is now a recognised mental health condition in its own right. It is estimated that 2-6% of the population suffer from hoarding disorder which equates to millions of people worldwide.
There has not been a huge amount of research conducted into the condition but it would seem to be more prevalent in males, and usually diagnosed as a condition at the average age of 50, when, unfortunately, the problem is well established and therefore more difficult to treat.
It is also thought that hoarders gain comfort and feel safer when surrounded by the things that they amass and save.
There is some evidence that those with perfectionistic or reclusive personality traits may be more prone to hoarding, but as with other disorders this is difficult to quantify and there are likely to be many more factors involved.
As with other mental health conditions, hoarding disorder can have a terrible impact on a person's life.
Relationships are either strained or impossible, and isolation occurs frequently when the sufferer is often far too ashamed and embarrassed to let people into their home. There are also health and safety risks, with health codes often violated and excessive hoarding meaning that bathing and cooking often become impossible.
The current treatment seems to be CBT which aims to diminish the sufferers exaggerated perceived need or desire to save otherwise undesirable items and possessions.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy also aims to help the person to improve their organisational and decision making skills so that they can be more selective when it comes to what they decide to keep or discard in the future.
For those worried about someone with this disorder the advice is to contact a doctor or a mental health professional because this is a serious condition which must not be ignored or dismissed.
If you would like to know more about the causes, symptoms and consequences of hoarding disorder then you find more information here.
Thanks for reading,
Speak to you soon,