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What Causes Hoarding Disorder?

                                                                                                 Compulsive hoarding apartment, messy things and with some trash / Photo by Wikimedia Commons

 

Letting go of things or materials that are quite sentimental to a person may be difficult. It becomes a problem once these items begin to add up, filling a home. In worst case scenarios, hoarding can include even mummified bodies such as in the case in Sydney. Associate professors from Macquarie University and UNSW respectively, Melissa Norberg and Jessica Grisham, mentioned in their article the latest, disturbing news caused by hoarding. A decomposing body was found in an apartment that was believed to be inside for more than 10 years.

In their article for The Conversation, the two professors aim to find the connection between loneliness and hoarding disorder. Moreover, Norberg and Grisham mentioned one of the possible roots behind hoarding. This begins with childhood, as infants and children use stuffed toys for comfort when the parents are not at home. Adults, on the other hand, have the capability to buy materials or trinkets that they may not need but still, fail to dispose of.

According to Norberg and Grisham, the symptoms of hoarding disorder are categorized into three factors. These are the following:

* Difficulty discarding items regardless of their actual value.

* A perceived need to save items and the associated distress at the idea of losing them.

* Clutter that prevents the home from being used for its intended purpose.

The term for this criteria is ‘DSM-5’, wherein individuals suffering from this can be compared to those that have schizophrenia. Moreover, this also highly increases risks of medical infections, accidents, and even death. In fact, about 25 percent of fire breakouts in Australia are caused by hoarding disorders.

However, from the patient’s perspective, an item may mean more than just a simple object. Norberg and Grisham’s article mentioned how these possessions could also remind people of their loved ones, or how there could be use for that certain material in the future. They all have their reasons for holding on to their belongings. One of these reasons includes considering  "objects as human substitutes." This is mostly seen among individuals with interpersonal difficulties, who feel insecure, and who have unmet social needs that often lead to anthropomorphism.

 

 

Cases of Hoarding Animals 

Hoarding can also include living organisms, such as the latest hoarding case in North Carolina, US. Two individuals were arrested by the local police as they were proven to be hoarding 84 dogs inside their Maynardville home. The setting was described to be under "deplorable conditions" by the animal rescue team that checked the surroundings. These animals were also diagnosed with fleas and skin issues. Fortunately, they will all be available for adoption soon. Humane Society Executive director Tammy Rouse, stated that they would have to first train these dogs before finding them new homes. Neighbors were unaware of the situation, as the area itself is secluded and overgrown.

Cat hoarding is also an increasing problem, according to Animal Rescue League in Pennsylvania. More than 50 cats were found inside a home at the city of Reading. Deputy director of Animal Rescue League, Elisabeth Manwiller told WFMZ-TV News that they found 49 cats inside and more surrounding the house. The cats were also not in good shape or health. They have been placed in quarantine for 14 days to make sure these cats are not suffering from severe diseases.

Decluttering Houses and Saving Lives

The stronger it becomes, the more instances of compulsive buying and grabbing onto things or materials for free are observed among patients. There are available treatments for this disorder, including challenging their beliefs about keeping these materials. Moreover, they also taught how to practice resistance, organization, and disposing possessions that can no longer be used.

In Oxfordshire, England for example, support groups are made available for families and individuals suffering from hoarding disorder. This program is managed by Helping Hands for Hoarders, and their first meeting was held last June 6. Events are held every first Wednesday of the month at Queen Emma’s Dyke, Witney. Cottsway Housing and Builders’ merchant Travis Perkins has been funding the support group. Moreover, they are also offering services such as decluttering, general cleaning, and downsizing from large to small properties. This helps the individuals live in smaller spaces that require lesser maintenance. 

Professors Norberg and Grisham, on the other hand, are researching an improved hoarding treatment that targets the core problems. Moreover, they want to improve social connections among the lives of the patients. Without these types of treatment, an estimate of $36,880 AUD would be lost per person because of the risks and consequences that come with hoarding. Another way of helping these individuals is by making them feel loved and worthy so that they may be able to improve the quality of their life and not practice materialistic behaviors.

 

                                                                                                 Surprise woman looking at multiple purchases in colorful shopping bags at home / Photo by Shutterstock

 

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