Weatherford Democrat

Extension News

February 17, 2013

Hoarding: the effects of obsessive keepers

By KATHY SMITH

Between 700,000 and 1.4 million people in the United States have compulsive hoarding behaviors.

It is defined as the excessive collection of items along with the inability to discard them. Hoarding can create cramped and hazardous living conditions that could pose health risks. Hoarding can interfere with daily tasks including bathing and cooking. Above all, the clutter or hoarded items can be a safety and a fire hazard.

Some of the characteristics of a hoarder are an individual who has accumulated large quantities of objects, documents, papers, animals or possessions beyond apparent necessity or pleasure. They struggle with parting and letting go of possessions. They may have a wide range of interests and uncompleted projects. They may be a chronically disorganized person gets distracted easily and has weak time-management skills. A hoarder often makes decisions differently than a non-hoarder. People who hoard do not see these characteristics as a problem.

Clutter for hoarders gives a feeling of safety and comfort. People who hoard usually have very few relationships. The ones they do have, they have had for a long time. Often hoarding has been caused by a traumatic life-changing event such as the loss of a divorce, death of a relative, loss of job, losing possessions in a disaster. If a person has not adequately dealt with this trauma, it can trigger a hoarding problem.

Hoarding can affect anyone regardless of sex, age or economic status. People are more likely to hoard if they had family members who did.

Often hoarders are perfectionists. They worry about making the right decision about what should be done with each possession. And when they can’t make the decision, they tend to keep it.

You should seek help from a doctor if clutter and difficulty in discarding things is a problem. This condition usually surfaces in the teenage years. As the person gets older they start to acquire things which there are not need or space. By middle age, when the condition is diagnosed, symptoms are usually severe and difficult to treat.

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