Is Hoarding a Mental Illness?
When you think of someone who hoards things, you may think of someone who likes to keep knick-knacks. Hoarding is a mental illness, and it’s called Hoarding Disorder. It’s important to understand that keeping some extra stuff here and there is not hoarding.
A pattern of behavior in which an individual has difficulty discarding or parting with possessions, regardless of their actual value, due to a perceived need to save them, a fear of losing them, or a strong attachment to them.
Hoarding behavior can lead to the accumulation of an excessive amount of possessions, which can clutter living spaces, pose a fire hazard, and create unsanitary conditions. Hoarding can interfere with daily activities, relationships, and overall functioning, and it can cause significant distress and impairment in an individual’s life.
The degrees of hoarding can range from mild to severe, and it may be associated with other mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
Hoarding is a mental illness called “Hoarding Disorder.”
This disorder was first recognized as a distinct mental illness in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV), published in 1994. However, it was classified as a subtype of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) rather than as a separate disorder.
In the DSM-5, published in 2013, hoarding disorder was recognized as a separate diagnosis and given its own diagnostic criteria. This change reflects the growing recognition that hoarding disorder is a distinct mental health condition that requires its own specialized treatment.
It is important to note that while the recognition of hoarding disorder as a distinct mental illness may be relatively recent, the behavior of hoarding has been recognized for centuries in various cultures and has been depicted in literature and art throughout history.
Different Kinds of Hoarding
Hoarding can take many different forms and can be caused by a variety of underlying factors. Here are some different types of hoarding:
This is a specific type of hoarding in which an individual accumulates an excessive number of animals, often beyond their ability to care for them properly. Animal hoarding can lead to unsanitary living conditions and cause harm to both the animals and the hoarder.
This is a type of hoarding in which an individual accumulates an excessive amount of information or paperwork. This includes magazines, newspapers, or documents, and has difficulty discarding them. This can lead to cluttered living spaces and make it hard for the hoarder to function in their daily lives.
This is a type of hoarding in which an individual accumulates an excessive amount of food, often beyond their ability to consume or store it properly. Food hoarding can lead to unsanitary living conditions and can contribute to health problems.
This is the most common form of hoarding, in which an individual accumulates an excessive amount of objects, such as clothing, books, or knick-knacks, and has difficulty discarding them. Object hoarding can lead to cluttered living spaces and can make it hard for the hoarder to function in their daily lives.
This is a type of hoarding in which an individual accumulates an excessive amount of digital files. This includes photos, emails, or documents, and has difficulty deleting them. Digital hoarding can lead to cluttered digital spaces and can make it hard for the hoarder to find what they need.
Note that these types of hoarding are not mutually exclusive, and an individual may exhibit multiple types of hoarding behavior. Additionally, hoarding can be a symptom of other mental health conditions, such as depression or anxiety, and it can be linked to trauma or other life events.
How to Help a Hoarder
Approach the hoarder with empathy and compassion. Understand that hoarding is a mental health condition, and that the hoarder may feel embarrassed, ashamed, or defensive about their behavior. Be kind.
Encourage the hoarder to seek professional help. Encourage the hoarder to seek help from a mental health professional, such as a therapist or psychiatrist. A mental health professional can help the hoarder develop coping strategies and behavioral changes to manage their hoarding tendencies.
Always remember that hoarding is a mental illness. This will require professional help for real change. Unless you are a mental health professional specializing in hoarding, chances are you can’t help your friend alone. You can support them — but you can not fix them.
And finally, offer practical help. Offer to help the hoarder declutter their living spaces, but do so in a non-judgmental and supportive manner. It can be helpful to break the decluttering process into small, manageable steps. Create a plan for organizing and storing possessions.
Hire Us for Clean Up
Cleaning up a hoarding situation can be dangerous to a human’s health. It also requires resources and man-power to clean up and dispose of so much trash. But you are in luck — because hoarding cleanup is what we do. Contact us today if you need help cleaning up after a hoarder.