Hoarding Disorder — Horror of Letting Go

Hoarding disorder or disposophobia refers to people who save or collect items that others may find worthless. People with hoarding symptoms experience difficulties and find it impossible to get rid of their possessions which inevitably leads to the growth of rubbish piles which harm their ability to live normally in their houses. Living rooms, kitchens, bathrooms and bedrooms cannot be used for their initial purpose.

“Since I was a little girl, I’ve always found it difficult to throw things away. Worn-out clothes, useless gifts, newspapers… I don’t know why but I felt connected to them, what if I need them some day? I can’t take the risk to throw something out, it can be valuable at some point of my life, I am sure it will be. It is hard to sit and have a dinner with my family because of all the stuff piles. I think my family feels embarrassed. One time, my kids invited friends over and they refused to come in when seeing all the rubbish piles, this made my kids sad. I don’t want them to be like me, but I am just so nervous when I have to get rid of something… What is wrong with me?”

This represents an example of a person with hoarding disorder.

However, hoarding is not the same as collecting. Usually collectors dedicate their lives to collect specific items, such as stamps or small car models. Their possessions are well-organised in order to display them and to brag about. Collectors feel satisfaction when they add a new piece on their shelves.

Junk Piles in Living Room

People with disposophobia save random stuff and store them in no order whatsoever. They collect items that they feel they may need in the future or items they feel connected with because of some sentimental value — this makes them feel safer when they are surrounded by their stuff.

Psychological profile of a hoarding person

You can recognize people suffering from hoarding disorder if they:

  • collect and then keep items that are not valuable at all. Plastic bags or junk mail are just examples.
  • are struggling when making simple decisions.
  • have extreme difficulties to separate and organise their belongings.
  • are terrified by the thought of throwing something away. They resolve this issue by just moving items from one room to another.
  • become overly attached to simple items, not letting anyone even to touch them.
  • are having troubles with everyday routine tasks, such as cleaning, showering or making a breakfast.
  • are not quite sociable. A simple conversation with another not related person to them can be a nightmare.

Psychologists believe that hoarding starts in the first 15 years. It all begins with the collection of irreparable toys, worn-out clothes or school materials and it get worse with age.

Rubbish Piles in Hoarder’s Home

It is reported that hoarding disorder occurs in 2% — 5% of the population, backed with depression and disability to have a normal life.

What to do if someone you know shows hoarding symptoms

The hoarding disorder can be caused by lack of family, friends and relationships. Sometimes it can be a result of a stressful life event, such as death of a life partner. Growing in a cluttered home can also be a cause for disposophobia. The disposition of highly wanted items in childhood can lead to a habit of collection useless items in great amounts.

In most cases people who suffer from hoarding disorder don’t think they need help nor they want any kind of treatment. If you know one, try to convince them to go to a GP. You can contact your GP to get to connect you with your local mental health institutions, they may have specialists who are familiar with hoarding disorder. You can also try to contact OCD-UK.

Tell your friend or relative that nobody will enter their home and throw items out. It is all about a conversation with the doctor in order to understand what will motivate them to start decluttering their home.

Why hoarding is an issue and how can it be resolved

It is an issue for multiple reasons. Because of the amount of rubbish, the person may not be able to sit in a chair without having to remove items. The house itself becomes an impossible place to live in, because of all the waste inside. People end up living in just one room where they eat and sleep. The living condition become highly unhygienic and in worst cases can lead to insect infestations.

Having a visitor is incredibly rare to happen even if there is an urgent need of a plumber to come in and fix the sink. Usually, people who suffer from hoarding disorder are isolated and feel depressed.

How it should be treated

Treatment is necessary for people with hoarding disorder in order to improve their quality of living, to live safer and to get rid of all the clutter inside their homes. Specialists treat this condition in two ways: medications and CBT (cognitive-behavioural therapy).

CBT helps people to understand their problems by changing their way of thinking and how they act and react to situations. During the therapy, individuals learn to let go of their not needed items with less distress. More important, therapy helps to minimise their desire for saving those items. In addition, people get better in making decisions, improve their social and organisational skills and learn how to be more relaxed. Changing their perception of the world can result in positive change in their behaviour.

The second type of treatment is using anti-depressant medications. For some, anti-depressant pills can produce more rapid improvement in their condition than CBT therapy.

How media exploited the disposophobia

Major televisions started broadcasting shows on hoarding topic. BBC started “Britain’s biggest hoarders”, while FOX created a show called simply “Hoarders’. In both shows, relatives or friends invite the TV crew and a psychologist on site. Series show hoarders’ effort to get help and recover their life. Calling a television and asking them to help is quite a desperate move, but there are many cases in which family members call rubbish removal companies to come and provide an urgent house clearance, but the person even to not allows them to enter their homes. In one of the episodes, filmed in London, a hoarder even tries to violate the TV crew.

Unfortunately, the hoarding absorbs person’s life, lowering their personal hygiene, work performance and almost erasing their social life.