Some common issues relating to Hoarding

Although it was once thought that hoarding was less treatable than other types of obsessive disorders, amongst many professionals hoarding has been recognised as a very treatable condition. Using many of the techniques that can help with OCD, hoarding is manageable, and can have little to no impact on the sufferer’s life with the right skills and treatment.


Below are some of the common problems in relation to hoarding:

  • Forming emotional bonds with items, which can make it very difficult to throw them away
  • The amount of space that they have left in the house can be irrelevant. Even if there is very little left, a hoarder will always find somewhere to put their collected items.
  • A struggle in organising items
  • Often the organisation of objects can help to make sense of the world around them
  • The person will find any excuse to keep an item, even if they are not sure when they will be able to make use of it
  • A niggling feeling that if they throw something away, then something is not complete, or ‘just not right’.

More specifically there are three recognised forms of hoarding, these are:

  • Prevention of harm-Common to OCD, a feeling that if they throw something away then something bad might happen.
  • Deprivation hoarding-An intense feeling that they may need the item later, so they have to keep on to it. This can often be caused by a loss earlier in life that they are now trying to fill.
  • Emotional hoarding-For some, hoarding can have an emotional element to it. Commonly explained by a past trauma or stress, emotional hoarding fills some emotional need that the person may have been deprived of in their past.

The very nature of hoarding is extremely obsessive, and that is a clear similarity between OCD and hoarding. Whether it be trying to work out where to put everything in the house, reorganising objects within a room, or desperately trying to get everything organised, compulsive behaviour that relates to hoarding can be tiresome and very time consuming. Often people that fall into hoarding obsessions find it very difficult to make progress, and find it difficult to ‘get anywhere’. Finding the right treatment for hoarding is crucial. Hoarding itself also poses significant practical health and safety risks, such as cooking near piles of paper, or clutter blocking emergency and fire escapes within a household.


Some common issues relating to Hoarding

In trying to grasp an understanding of hoarding, it is important to understand what happens when a person decides save something, and resist throwing it away. Often the thought of keeping an object can provide a high, or at the very least a feeling of safety. These pleasant thoughts often dominate thinking, cloud the ability to have clarity around other thoughts and make any urges to resist the hoarding difficult to accept. The benefits of throwing something away are often ignored or overshadowed by the down sides, such as a loss of identity or a missed opportunity. Feelings also play a pivotal role, with feelings like regret and guilt surfacing when either throwing objects out, or often just thinking about it. Therefore in keeping the item, they can avoid these negative thoughts and feelings, for a temporary amount of time at least.


Hoarding and the effects on the person’s quality of life

Many hoarders are living in un-safe, and perhaps even dangerous surroundings. More commonly relating to extreme cases of hoarding, a person’s personal environment can become chaotic and disorganised, although for the person themselves this may be how they function and make sense of the world. Unlike other people who may prefer a clean and tidy house, which is organised, safe and up to date, hoarder is likely to live in an environment without any of those things. For example, when something breaks in the house and needs to be fixed by a professional, such as a boiler, most people would allow the qualified person into their house to fix the issue. However, the idea of letting someone else into their house can be a distressing one for many hoarders, and so go on living with a broken boiler, rather than take the steps to fix it. Hoarding can also have a large impact on friends and family. Often bringing about negative feelings in those closest to the person, hoarding can take priority over anything else ceating feelings of anger, resentment and depression for all partied involved, sometimes even leading to broken down friendships, romantic relationship and isolation.


What are the difference between hoarding and collecting?

Those who collect are often proud of their achievements around possessions. Whether it be a classic car collection, or a stamp collection someone that collects as a hobby is provided with enjoyment by their collection, and will often talk fondly of it. On the other hand, for a hoarder, the experience is something quite different. Many hoarders feel embarrassed about what they have collected, realise that what they are collecting may not be necessary, and begin to feel ashamed. Supporting isolation, often those who hoard avoid showing their collections to anyone else, and may refrain from coming into contact with people or letting them inside their own house. Hoarding can lead to depression, low self-esteem and major disruptions in the life that they once knew.


Hoarding in relation to OCD

Although now recognised as a stand-alone condition, hoarding and OCD have many similarities. Namely the emotions that drive both conditions stem from anxiety, and our unhealthy relationship with wanting control. Someone experiencing hoarding struggles to live with the uncertainty that throwing an object away may trigger, very similar to the effects that refraining from doing a compulsions may initiate for someone with OCD. A common misconception is that someone with OCD is tidy and organised, and although this may be the case for some, this is not true for all OCD sufferers. Many people that experience obsessive compulsive disorder are messy and chaotic, and it is in fact the processes behind the condition that are fundamentally important. The cycle of hoarding is similar to that of OCD, in that there are intrusive thoughts, feelings and an urge to perform some compulsions, that being keeping onto objects for someone that hoards.


How can our treatment help OCD and Hoarding

As already stated, many of the underlying processes are the same behind both OCD and hoarding. Whilst it can be very important to look at how the tendency to hoard may have come about, understanding one’s self and our own relationship with intrusive thoughts and anxiety can play a key role in the ongoing suffering of someone that hoards. Through carefully looking at every individual’s experience, we can help you to shift those unhelpful coping strategies and look at more positive ways to respond to such anxious feelings and intrusive thoughts. We will work closely alongside you, and show you realistic ways to take steps in the right direction. Furthermore, we would also offer continual support after the intensive program to back up all the progress you will have made during the intensive process.