What Is Hoarding Disorder?

Tuesday 9th January 2024

Joanna Grimbley-Smith

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A hoarder's garden


Hoarding disorder is a recognised mental health condition that can deeply affect someone's life. Unfortunately, many people that suffer from it are unable to see that they have a problem and need help. 

Here at ICE Cleaning, we offer our comprehensive hoarder cleaning services nationwide. Our specialist cleaners can clear and dispose of unwanted possessions, and then decontaminate the property. We can also carry out any other services you may need, like pest control, mould removal, and odour neutralisation. 

Read on to learn more about hoarding disorder and how to help those that suffer from it. 

The definition of hoarding disorder

Hoarding disorder is a persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions because of a perceived need to save them. People with hoarding disorder often feel distressed at the thought of getting rid of items, leading to an accumulation of possessions that clutters living spaces and can eventually take over a property.

The difficulty of discarding items causes significant emotional turmoil and impairs daily activities, relationships, and work. The excessive acquisition and failure to discard objects often means rooms cannot be used for their intended purpose. You can find out more on the NHS website.

The symptoms of hoarding disorder

Recognizing hoarder disorder symptoms is crucial to help the sufferer seek timely help. A clear sign is when the collecting and storing become so overwhelming that they intrude on everyday life. For example, stacks of newspapers might block doorways, rooms could no longer serve their purpose, and homes may become hazardous places filled with fire risks or trip hazards.

Another key symptom is if someone exhibits intense distress, anxiety, and discomfort at the thought of discarding possessions.

Sufferers may experience indecision about what to keep or where to put things, as well, leading them down a path where clutter accumulates without any organisational system in place. Unlike collectors who develop collections that are clearly organised, hoarders keep items in a disorganised manner. 

Apart from taking up physical space, hoarding can affect someone's personal hygiene, impair social interactions, affect work performance, and make standard day-to-day activities difficult. 

What are the causes of hoarding disorder?

Hoarding disorder is a complex condition with various contributing factors. The precise cause remains unclear, yet it is thought to be a blend of genetic elements, brain-related factors, and traumatic experiences. For example, certain studies suggest people who have family members with hoarding disorder are more likely to develop the condition themselves.

Beyond genetics, brain function plays a crucial role in why some individuals accumulate items excessively. People with hoarding disorder may exhibit differences in how their brains process information; they might attach an unusual level of emotional significance to objects or struggle with decision-making and organisational skills.

Past trauma can also trigger or exacerbate hoarding behaviours. Individuals who have undergone a significant loss or other trauma might begin accumulating items as a coping mechanism in an attempt to fill an emotional void or regain control over their lives.

Stressful life events such as divorce, retirement, or the death of a loved one can act as catalysts for developing hoarder tendencies, as well. The change these events bring about could prompt someone to seek comfort by holding onto material things.

Several mental health conditions including depression, anxiety, OCD, and even underlying health conditions like dementia, are linked to hoarding, too.

The effects of hoarding disorder

Hoarding disorder can create a domino effect of negative consequences, impacting not just the individual but also their surroundings. One major risk is the health hazards it poses; cluttered spaces become breeding grounds for pests and mould. The accumulation of items and the inability to effectively clean the property can lead to poor air quality and increased allergens in the home.

Another critical concern is safety. Overstuffed rooms might obstruct exits or pathways, making leaving in the event of an emergency, like a fire, difficult. In fact, excessive clutter has been known to hamper rescue efforts during emergencies and can lead to tragic outcomes.

Beyond physical risks lies psychological strain; living in such conditions often leads to social isolation and stress. Relationships may suffer as friends and family find it hard to visit or stay connected with someone living amidst such a huge volume of possessions.

Hoarders often face serious health risks due to unsanitary conditions that attract vermin and promote mould growth. Tripping over items can cause falls and lead to injuries. Piles of disorganised items can fall onto people, and seriously injure or even trap them, too. 

Hoarding can make the sufferer's mental health worse, as well. Anxiety levels tend to be high among people with hoarding disorders because they feel overwhelmed by their possessions yet unable to part with them. This attachment can fuel feelings of guilt when considering getting rid of items, which further complicates attempts at decluttering.

How to help hoarding disorder

First, do not attempt to clear out the property yourself. Tackling a large amount of unstable clutter without professional help is not safe. There may also be potential fire risks and health hazards, like stacks of newspapers or faulty electricals that can spark. 

Forced clean ups can even make the situation worse. People that suffer with hoarding disorder often do not like people touching or going through their stuff, and not only could a clear-out be highly distressing, it could make them distrust you and cause them to isolate themselves. 

Instead, start by seeking treatment for the sufferer for hoarding disorder. Treatment for hoarding disorder usually begins with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) which helps people unpack why they feel compelled to hold onto items and helps them them learn new ways to think about possessions. 

When they feel ready to clear out their home, bring in professional hoarder cleaners. They will have the experience, knowledge, and personal protective equipment to safely and quickly deal with a hoarding problem. You can find out more about how to help a hoarder in this blog

Get in touch

We operate 24/7, 365 days a year, including bank holidays. If it is an emergency, we can be on site within a matter of hours of your call. 

To book your hoarder cleaning service, contact our friendly team on 0208 066 0360 or enquiries@icecleaning.co.uk

Zoe Dunning

Zoe Dunning

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