Dealing with a hoarding disorder can be extremely difficult. It is a serious condition that can result in dangerous living conditions and even social isolation in some extreme cases. A small population of the world hoards, but an even lower percentage understands that their behavior is not rational.
You can’t force hoarders to get better, but you can provide support and encourage them to seek help and make their recovery easier and quicker.
What Is Hoarding?
Hoarding is a mental health condition that starts with delayed disposal of unwanted things while at the same time accumulating new items. Not only do these items start occupying ample amounts of space within the house, but they could also be a waste of money and even cause biohazards for anyone who lives in the house.
Hoarding is similar to clutter and collecting, but it is not the same. Clutter could eventually lead to hoarding, but collectors tend to look for particular items that they display in an organized manner. Hoarders often haphazardly save random things that others may feel are not worthwhile.
At some point, this hoarding habit becomes a disorder in that the person begins to believe that one day, these unused items will be needed. In other cases, the person may be unable to dispose of things that they think have sentimental value, or feel safer when they are surrounded by the items they have saved up.
Consequences of Hoarding
Hoarding can have several consequences. First and foremost, it could raise many health concerns since it can be a cause of biohazards in the home. It also takes up a large amount of space and increases the person’s dependency on their belongings, which could be harmful in the long run.
Hoarding can also be an extremely costly condition since purchasing so many things you don’t need leads to wasted money as well. It also puts a strain on interpersonal relationships, since hoarding can not only lead to self-isolation but even cause conflicts between people living in the same house.
Hoarders who feel attacked for their habit may be unwilling to meet people or let them enter the house. Sometimes, the problem can be so extensive that performing daily life tasks, such as cooking and walking, around becomes impossible. In such cases, it is crucial to find help immediately.
How to Help Hoarders
Don’t Take Away Their Possessions
Even if their house is covered in old clothes and unread books, trying to ‘cure’ them by taking away the items they hoard is not the solution. Taking away their things is a temporary solution, which could even cause psychological harm. Many people get severely emotionally distressed if their possessions are taken away, so even though you have good intentions, you could be doing more harm than good.
Don’t Enable Them
While stopping hoarding behavior is not within your control, you can avoid enabling hoarders. If you know someone is a hoarder, avoid inviting them on shopping trips where they will be encouraged to buy more things, or avoid adding to their collection with gifts.
To an outsider, hoarding behavior may not make much sense. If you know a hoarder and want to help them, do as much as you can to learn about the issue. You can use verified resources on the internet that can be accessed freely by anyone. You can also consult mental health professionals who can educate you on the condition. Once you understand what the hoarder is going through, you can better help them by offering empathy and support.
Don’t Clean Up For Them
Although offering to provide help in sorting out items can be useful for the hoarder, doing it for them entirely is not. You cannot expect hoarders to make progress with recovering from their problem if you are forcing them into treatment or if you are not allowing them to make their own independent decisions. Sometimes, you might have to wait till they are willing to take a step on their own before you come forward to offer them a hand, but don’t take the job of hoarding clean up on yourself.
Acknowledge Small Achievements
Hoarding is a serious condition that can take months or even years to overcome. Often, with all their hoarded possessions, getting rid of all of them can take a very long time, and even longer for the progress to be visible. If they don’t feel like their small victories matter, they may not have any motivation or incentive to keep it up. When you see progress, even if it’s small, like throwing out an item or two, make sure to acknowledge and appreciate it.
Help Them Find Treatment
Hoarding isn’t a problem that goes away on its own. In many cases, hoarding isn’t a standalone problem either and is a co-morbid condition due to other, deep-seated issues. Make sure to help the person find treatment, but don’t force them into it. This problem requires behavioral therapy, and if they are forced into it, it may even have the opposite effect. Instead, research as much as possible and provide information. Wait until they are ready to make their own independent decision.
Help Them in Sorting Out Their Belongings
Sometimes, the problem is so extreme that hoarders accumulate enough things to fill up an entire house. In cases like these, a person may have a whole house full of items to sort through. Instead, research as much as possible and provide information.
You can help them out by offering a hand. However, cleaning up after hoarding is an extremely tricky and challenging job. In such cases, you can hire hoarding cleanup services, such as Duval County Hoarding, who have the expertise for the task.