When a Loved One is Compulsively Hoarding Their Possessions and Food
It can be hard to know whether someone is a compulsive hoarder or if they are just messy and disorganized.
Being organized is not something that comes naturally to some people, it is a trait that sometimes has to be learned. But a compulsive hoarder is a lot different from just being unorganized. Being disorganized simply means that a person has a hard time putting their things away in an organized manner. Being a compulsive hoarder is a lot more complicated.
Compulsive hoarding is the acquiring and saving of items that are perceived by the individual to have value or importance. Hoarding can be a symptom associated with either another disorder such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), dementia, Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, eating disorders like anorexia, or it can occur all by itself. It has also been discussed among researchers as to whether compulsive hoarding is a form of OCD or if it is a clinically distinct syndrome that is part of the OC spectrum of disorders. Hoarders can show signs of compulsions like ordering, counting, and repeating obsessive behavior. Hoarders tend to be more of a perfectionist and indecisive then the average person.
There are several different signs that are associated with someone who is a compulsive hoarder and they go beyond just having a messy house. Someone who is a compulsive hoarder may have no control on putting a limit to the things that they might already have. Compulsive hoarding compulsions also include shopping for more items, checking their garbage or the garbage of others for items, and/or looking through circulars for sales. Plus, they can become obsessive about their items. Someone who is a compulsive hoarder might inspect their possessions or count them as well. They might even call others to check on items. Some hoarders also suffer from abnormal grooming behavior such as skin picking, nail biting or compulsive hair pulling known as trichotillomania.
The clutter in one’s home is just a symptom of hoarding, meaning the real problem lies with how their possessions are perceived and their way of thinking. Several common obsessions or distortions are seen with those who hoard and they are usually based around fears. A compulsive hoarder may have a fear of running out of objects or a fear of discarding an object and then needing it in the future. A hoarder might also develop excessive emotional attachment to their items and then fear losing sight of them or discarding them. This is one of the reasons that hoarders make piles of their items or refuse to put them away. Many times hoarders fear making the wrong decision about what to discard and what to keep and by saving possessions, the hoarder postpones making the decision to discard something, and therefore, avoids experiencing anxiety about making a mistake. Some compulsive hoarders feel a need to have their items that remind them of someone or something close to them and in sight at all times. Compulsive hoarding also often stems from control issues. They might fear losing control over their possessions or they might simply feel like they gain control over their lives by controlling their possessions.