Television has recently opened the public's eyes with their weekly series entitled "Hoarding". Many had no idea that others live like those portrayed in the show. Mind you, the producers likely search for the most dramatic situations in order to draw a viewing audience through sensationalism. But hoarding does occur in varying degrees - and not just in "other locations". People who hoard might be your family members, friends or neighbours.
There are several things that the people who hoard have in common:
- Usually they have experienced a traumatic incident or situation which triggers the hoarding. A death, career loss or tragic event might be what is identified as the starting point of the problem.
- A person who hoards usually, over time, allows things to take the place of relationships. They begin attaching emotionally to items and then are unable to let go long enough to get rid of the items.
- Things begin taking over the living and emotional space of the hoarder and soon it is so overwhelming that the person doesn't know how or where to start to begin making changes. As a result, the hoarder continues to gather even more things around them with the hope that they will bring comfort. But they don't. In fact, often the piles become so large that the person doesn't even know what is there.
- Things become so out of control and the individual tends to isolate from the world even more than they had at the beginning. Family and friends are not invited or welcomed into the environment because the person feels shame about the situation and doesn't want any ridicule.
- It usually takes a professional to work with the mental, emotional and environmental issues.
- Cleaning up the environment does not guarantee that the behaviours will stop. In fact, even though the hoarding becomes a problem it is actually the result of a mental disorder. The initial problem is the way that the person thinks and acts. If there isn't appropriate therapy for the hoarder, the hoarding will continue. Some of the families on the show indicate that they have cleaned up the house several times and cannot understand why that isn't enough.
- The person who participates in an appropriate treatment plan is usually relieved and happy about the changes that occur as a result. In fact, relationships that had previously been distanced are often restored again - only this time in a healthy manner.
If you believe that you are stuck in a pattern of hoarding, consider meeting with a psychologist who can help you to make positive changes in your life. The first step you take can be the one that gets you on a good path for the future.
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From Dr. Linda Hancock, Registered Psychologist and Registered Social Worker