Hoarding: the Secret Shame of Millions of Americans

List: Posted: 11/04/11

Chances are, we have all known a mild hoarder in our lives.  Call them pack rats, clutter freaks, junk collectors, etc, there are always those who just can never throw anything away, or can never organize anything. 


In recent years, there has been so much attention given to hoarding, there are now television shows based on such behavior (Hoarders on A&E) and appearances by hoarders on talk shows (Oprah, The View, etc).  Hoarding is a serious condition that can get worse with time, and can affect all areas of a person's life.  The following is a breakdown of what hoarding is, the symptoms of hoarding, and some ways to get help.

What is Hoarding?


Hoarding can be described as the compulsive purchasing, acquiring and saving of large amounts of a multitude of items or one single type of item.  Hoarding is considered an obsessive-compulsive disorder and can be related to other mental illnesses, including depression, social anxiety, bipolar disorder and impulsive control disorder.


It is estimated that 2 percent of the population suffers from hoarding, but hoarders are such isolated individuals that the actual number may be much higher.  Hoarding usually begins in childhood, but can be undetected until adulthood.


Symptoms of hoarding include:

  • Not throwing away disposable purchases such as newspapers, magazines, paper and plastic bags, boxes, household supplies, food, and clothing.

  • Severe anxiety about discarding possessions.

  • Impulsive and extreme purchasing of possessions (this can include animals).

  • Overwhelmed or embarrassed by possessions.

  • Anxious of other people touching possessions.

  • Functional problems such as loss of living space inside the home (no place to eat, sleep, or cook).

  • Frequent arguments with other family members or roommates when asked to clean up or change hoarding behavior.
  • Refusal to tolerate visitors; partial or complete withdrawal from society.


Understanding Hoarding


Hoarders generally experience shame and embarrassment about their behavior and typically live a very solitary life that keeps many people from ever entering their home.  Although hoarding can cause a multitude of problems such as sanitation issues, financial issues and animal cruelty issues, the biggest impact of hoarding is on an individual's personal life.


Another type of hoarding relates to people who cannot differentiate or sort information correctly in their brain, such as the difference between trash and something of value.  Since they cannot understand the difference between the two at their most basic level of functioning, this individual will not throw anything away, including rotting food, empty containers, dead animals and garbage.  This can cause health problems for the hoarder and anyone else living in the home, as there is often an exposure to mold and other toxic substances.


Recovering From Hoarding


Hoarding is a serious illness that often requires psychological help from a psychiatrist or behavioral therapist.  The good news is that hoarding is entirely treatable and former hoarders have gone on to lead normal lives.


As with other obsessive-compulsive disorders, there are a number of books available on the subject to help, but most psychologists have seen the greatest recovery success when a hoarder seeks counseling and group therapy of their own free will to discuss their affliction.  There are online support groups that can help, as well.  In addition, there are effective obsessive-compulsive medications that can help the brain's obsession with hoarding.


If you or a loved one is suffering from hoarding, the most important thing to remember is that  treatment must be sought, regardless of the method eventually used.  There is plenty of sympathetic help for hoarding, and resources that can help you and your family return to living a healthy, uncluttered life.



Doctors & Physicians: Family Practice

  • 20905 Professional Plz Suite 330 Ste 330
  • Ashburn, VA 20147
  • (703) 726-0003

    Comprehensive Family Dentistry. Life is about choice. Everyone deserves a choice, especially when it comes to your own health care. The office of Dr. Ronald Ray believes the patient is in the drivers seat. Dr. Ray believes the patient needs information before treatment decisions can be reached. Recommendations are made by the doctors; but, decisions are made by the patients. This philosophy goes a long way towards lessening the anxiety of going to a new dentist. The office is particularly child friendly and several of their chair side assistants have a pediatric background. Prevention is the best medicine so their hygienists take the time to explain gum health and the benefits of fluoride. Patients also seem to like their new smile created by "white" fillings and veneers. When it is time to head to the dentist, go to Ronald Ray, D.D.S. in Ashburn, Virginia, the home of comprehensive family dentistry.

    • 43930 Farmwell Hunt Plz Ste 136
    • Ashburn, VA 20147
    • (703) 858-0045

      At Family Foot and Ankle Centers, our priority is to deliver quality care to informed patients in a comfortable and convenient setting. Quality Care When you have problems with your feet and ankles, you need to turn to a podiatrist who listens and responds ... an experienced doctor who knows the field and can effectively diagnose and treat your needs ... a friendly physician who counsels you on the best ways to maintain and improve your health. Our physicians meet all these criteria. Plus, you benefit from a dedicated team of trained professionals who give you the individualized attention you deserve. Informed Patients Family Foot and Ankle Centers believes that informed patients are better prepared to make decisions regarding their health and well being. That is why we've included an extensive section on this web site covering the full array of topics associated with podiatry and podiatric diagnoses and treatments. We encourage you to look through these pages whenever you have an interest or concern about your feet. Comfortable, Convenient Setting The best care in the world doesn't mean anything if you can't access it. At Family Foot and Ankle Centers,we strive to make our Ashburn, Fairfax, Reston and McLean offices as efficient and convenient as possible.

      • 20905 Professional Plz Ste 310
      • Ashburn, VA 20147
      • (703) 520-7787

        Visual Health Doctors of Optometry, Inc. provides clients throughout Northern Virginia with high quality care for their eyes. Our clients deserve personalized, effective assistance and cost effective solution. We provide eye wear , glasses, contact lens and eye exams.

        • 19825 Belmont Chase Dr Suite 165 Ste 165
        • Ashburn, VA 20147
        • (571) 374-6078


        Did you enjoy this article? Let us know what you think.

        Add a Comment


        The material in this article is for informational purposes only. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of Local.com. See Additional Information


        More about local.com Features

        Socialize With Us

        © 2015 Local Corporation - US Patent 7,231,405
        Some data provided by Acxiom. Questions and Comments?