Hoarding disorder is defined by the drive to collect a large amount of useless or valueless items, coupled with extreme distress at the idea of throwing anything away.
Over time, this situation can render a space unhealthy or dangerous to be in, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Hoarding disorder can negatively impact someone emotionally, physically, socially and financially, and often leads to distress and disability. In addition, many hoarders cannot see that their actions are potentially harmful, and so may resist diagnosis or treatment.
About 5 percent of the world population suffers from clinical hoarding.
Symptoms tend to increase with age, but it may just be that older people are more likely to have people come into their homes and therefore be “discovered,” by visiting nurses, social service providers, etc.
People hoard for many reasons, including: sentimental value, difficulty with decision making, difficulty organizing, feelings of responsibility, need for control/perfectionism, fear of forgetting, and to fill the void created by a loss. Hoarding often stems from a desire to control the environment and how objects are used.
Risk Factors of Hoarding
Because hoarders are reluctant to seek treatment it is not clear how common hoarding is. Some of the risk factors that researchers have found, according to sageminder.com, are:
Age – Hoarding is not limited to any age, race, gender or nationality but it is believed to start in early adolescence. It typically progresses to a moderate problem when a person reaches their 20’s and 30’s, becoming a more severe problem in the 40’s and 50’s. Elderly may develop a hoarding issue due to aging factors.
Social Isolation – People who hoard are typically socially withdrawn. This can be a result of the hoarding or may be the reason for it.
Life Events – Leading a stressful life and not having the proper coping mechanisms can lead to hoarding.
Family History – Research has shown that there is a strong association between family members who are hoarders and becoming one yourself.
Alcohol Abuse – Studies have shown that about half of all hoarders have a history of alcohol dependency.
People who hoard often have personality characteristics in common, such as indecisiveness, a tendency to procrastinate or avoid, and being a perfectionist. Many hoarders experience difficulty with executive functioning. While age-related illnesses are not a primary cause of hoarding, it can be a symptom in dementia patients. Hoarding behaviors can also be seen in people suffering from OCD, depression, schizophrenia and traumatic brain injury.
5 Methods to Help Senior Hoarding, according to Address Our Mess.
- Acknowledge the problem. Denying an issue will simply make it worse rather than make it disappear. Being honest about an issue opens up doors for help.
- Do your research. It is crucial to know about a problem before you can address it; hoarding is no exception. Develop an understanding of what hoarding is as well as available resources to help with hoarding.
- Talk with the hoarder. Sometimes the individual is unaware or even in denial of a problem. Informing the hoarder of the situation and potential dangers can help bring to light the seriousness of the matter. Discuss how to remedy the hoarding situation and develop a plan together. Refer to our Hoarding Help Do’s and Don’ts Guide to know what to do (and what to avoid) when approaching a hoarder.
- Find a specialized cleaning company. Not all cleaning companies are equipped to handle hoarding situations. Look for a specialized hoarding cleanup company in your area to help clear the clutter and sanitize the home.
- Consider a therapist. Hoarding may not be completely resolved by just the physical clean up. Combining hoarding cleaning with mental health services is a more effective solution as it will not only restore the home but also help to put a stop to continuing hoarding habits.