If you’re a sentimental person, you likely have certain items you’d never get rid of. You might display a handful of items on shelves or have a few dozen things stored away in keepsake boxes to look at when you’re nostalgic. But what happens when you begin to attach value to every item you come across and can’t part with anything — even things other people may consider junk or valueless? This situation is what people often refer to as hoarding, and it can have a severe impact on a person’s overall health, well-being, and safety. But is hoarding an addiction? Today, we’ll answer this question and provide relevant, valuable information that can help you or a loved one overcome hoarding.
Is Hoarding an Addiction?
Hoarding is an addiction to collecting things that causes a person to undergo severe mental stress when they have to get rid of something. Hoarding is a compulsive mental illness that often co-occurs with other mental health conditions or addictions.
An Introduction to Hoarding Disorder
Hoarding disorder is characterized as an ongoing difficulty with throwing away or parting with possessions. For some, this need to save things aligns with placing inappropriate sentimental value on items. For others, there may be an ongoing thought that certain things could eventually be used in specific situations, and those with hoarding disorder will often justify saving items by listing out their potential uses. Sometimes those uses make sense, while others may be a little farfetched.
Unfortunately, hoarding disorder can directly affect a person’s physical health and safety as much as it affects their mental health. For example:
- Some hoarded items may be hazardous or flammable.
- Hoarding items often leads to cramped living spaces that pose fire hazards.
- Severe clutter can encourage bug or rodent infestations, which present health hazards.
- There’s a risk of tripping, falling, or having items fall on you.
The Emotional and Psychological Effects of Hoarding
Hoarding can significantly diminish your overall quality of life. Mostly, this is due to a lack of functional living space when piles of hoarded items render rooms unusable for their original purposes. For example, items may be stored on the bed, so they can’t be slept on, or stacked high on the kitchen table so you have nowhere to eat. These conditions are often unhealthy or dangerous, and many hoarders tend to go without necessities like electricity, heat, air conditioning or even running water.
Hoarding can also cause intense emotions, such as resentment, anger, depression, and hopelessness, for the person with hoarding disorder and their friends or family. Additionally, hoarding disorder can lead to eviction, loss of income, divorce, or even loss of child custody, which brings other emotional and psychological effects.
Symptoms and Signs of Hoarding Addiction
The symptoms and signs of hoarding addiction may include:
- Getting too many items you don’t have an immediate need for
- Ongoing challenges throwing away things you’ve obtained
- Feeling intense emotional duress when considering getting rid of unnecessary items
- Clutter building up in certain rooms to the point where they aren’t usable
- Having difficulty planning and organizing
- Conflicts with others over how much stuff you have
- Believing ordinary items are unique, special, or needed
How to Stop Enabling a Hoarder
The best thing you can do if your loved one suffers from hoarding disorder is to set up an intervention urging them to seek professional help. You might even consider using a mental health counselor to lead the intervention. To set up an intervention for your loved one:
- Research hoarding online so you have an understanding of what your loved one is going through.
- Gather information on treatment options.
- Form an intervention team that may contain professionals, friends, family members, neighbors, or even coworkers.
- Determine specific consequences for the hoarder if they don’t agree to seek treatment.
- Have every intervention team member create notes on what they’ll say.
- Hold the intervention meeting.
- Remember to always follow up to ensure the person with hoarding disorder goes through with treatment.
How to Recover From Hoarding
Recovery from hoarding is possible. The first step on the road to recovery is admitting a problem exists. Like other mental health conditions, people with hoarding addiction may not realize they have a problem until their loved ones bring it up. Once someone can see that they have a problem, treatment can begin.
Treatment plans for hoarding will vary from one person to the next. However, some treatment options you or your loved one may use include cognitive behavioral therapy, medications, and support groups.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help you identify why you hoard and learn how to resist these urges. CBT can also give you healthier coping mechanisms and help you learn how to remove clutter to make your home livable again. CBT may uncover another mental health condition that can then be treated to reduce a hoarding relapse.
Although there aren’t any medications currently approved to treat hoarding disorder, some people may find antianxiety medications or antidepressants useful. Support groups can be beneficial because they help you understand that you aren’t alone and provide real-life examples of people who’ve overcome hoarding addiction to reclaim their lives.
Tips for Managing Hoarding Behavior and Preventing Relapse
To prevent relapse and manage hoarding behavior:
- Stick with your treatment plan, even when it’s difficult.
- Reach out to a professional or loved one when you feel the desire to hoard.
- Try to keep yourself and your environment tidy.
- Accept help when necessary.
- Stay properly hydrated.
- Get enough rest.
- Eat a balanced diet.
- Take small steps during your initial hoarding cleanup.
Get Help With Hoarding Addiction Today
Is hoarding an addiction? Absolutely. If you or your loved one shows signs of hoarding addiction, it’s essential to understand you’re not alone. Reach out today to speak with one of our compassionate, knowledgeable counselors 24/7. Start your hoarding recovery journey and reclaim your life today.