The Mayo Clinic defines hoarding disorder as “a persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions because of a perceived need to save them… Excessive accumulation of items, regardless of actual value, occurs.” Hoarding disorder keeps the sufferer from throwing anything away, but still accumulating possessions. The medical community has come to understand that hoarding is an obsessive-compulsive disorder condition that can be treated with traditional therapy methods. While the severity of hoarding can swing wildly from mild to severe, it may build up over time to the point where it effects the life of the sufferer. This accumulation and inability to discard will make the home of the sufferer full to the top in a relatively short amount of time. There are some signs to keep an eye out for if you suspect someone you love of having hoarding tendencies.
There is a line between general clutter and hoarding tendencies. People who have a lot of clutter usually have a small organizational system where they can kind of find things when they need them. With hoarding, chances are that the hoarder has no idea where things are or even really what he or she has. There is unlikely to be any kind of organizational system. Often, items are stacked on top of other items in a precarious manner. Some possessions might be simply tossed aside or left where they have fallen.
Eventually, a hoarder’s inability to throw anything away or get rid of anything while still accumulating things will start to take over his or her home. It may start with piles of possessions around the perimeter of a room. The piles will likely get stacked as high as they can be and then more piles will appear. Eventually, the hoarder will not be able to enter certain rooms or walk certain paths. In some extreme cases, hoarders will have one path that leads to the only usable places in his or her dwelling. Often, bedrooms because blocked off so he or she sleeps on a couch or on the floor if there is room. Sometimes, the piles block off all but a single area of the home.
Because of the piles and the items that are being kept, the hoarder’s home will quickly become completely unsanitary. Since areas because inaccessible and things cannot be thrown away, refrigerators fill with mold, sinks fill with dirty dishes, laundry goes unwashed, and nothing is cleaned. The piles of possessions get in the way of finding and dealing with any kind of messes that are unhealthy. At this point, the hoarder is likely to be relying on take-out food because there is no room to cook and nothing clean to cook with. Take-out food containers will begin to litter the dwelling breeding bacteria. If a hoarding condition gets this far, it is usually an illness related to the squalid conditions that gets the hoarder into treatment.
Hoarders will use all kinds of excuses to keep people, even people they love, from doing anything about the increasing clutter. Any accusations or assertions that the clutter is more than just clutter could create a major rift between the hoarder and the asserting party. This is about the point where concerned family members and friends start to think about what kinds of action they can take to get help for the hoarder in question.
Someone who exhibits hoarding behavior will more and more shy away from having people see into their homes or come into their homes. This includes friends and family because the hoarder is likely embarrassed about their hoarding. This also includes anyone else who might touch any of the hoarder’s possessions. Despite the embarrassment, hoarders to not like anyone else to touch their belongings. This includes repair people as well meaning that often, hoarders have broken appliances that cannot be used, but remain broken because they keep people away from their dwellings at all costs.