What is hoarding? The forgotten addiction

Addictions come in all shapes and sizes and can have various consequences attached. Though one addiction that many often forget about is hoarding. We’ve all been guilty of keeping things we probably should have thrown away or given to charity, but when does it start becoming a serious issue?

An estimated 2-5% of the UK population suffer from some form of hoarding disorder. That’s over 1.2million people. However, extreme hoarding is even rarer, but affects sufferers immensely.

Hoarding is an obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)  and hoarders often enjoy collecting items with a reluctance to throw things away. Sufferers of mobility problems may also be prone to hoarding due to the difficulties they face moving objects from one place to another. Hoarding can also be caused by superstitions or even paranoia in some cases. This can result in cluttered or untidy living environments.

Many items that are kept by hoarders may be of little monetary worth and can be stored in chaotic ways.

Items people may hoard:

  • Newspapers and magazines
  • Bills and receipts
  • Plastic bags
  • Books
  • Leaflets
  • Letters/junk mail
  • Cardboard boxes and other types of container
  • Household supplies and broken down appliances
  • Animals
  • Photographs
  • Emails and other electronic files

In extreme cases, hoarding can negatively affect day to day life, with some people being unable to access cupboards or rooms in their house, use the bath or even sleep due to excess clutter.

Hoarding can become a problem when it begins to interfere with interpersonal relationships and get in the way of every day tasks such as washing and cleaning, which can lead to poor personal hygiene and unhealthy living conditions. This can in turn attract unwanted pests such as insects or rats. Extreme hoarding can also increase the risk of fire and can also block fire escapes, making it even more dangerous.

Many factors can influence a persons hoarding issues. Having a family history of hoarding plays a big role, as well as growing up in cluttered or untidy surroundings. It can also be connected to personal self-neglect, with many hoarders living alone, being unmarried or having grown up in poverty. Bereavement can also cause a person to hoard unnecessary items.

Hoarding is not an easy disorder to treat, but with the right work and commitment, it can be overcome. The main treatment for hoarding disorder is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) – a talking therapy which is most commonly used to treat anxiety and depression, but can be useful for other mental and physical health problems. In some cases, antidepressants will be prescribed.

If you feel you are suffering with this condition and would like to seek help, contact your GP.

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