You know that pet rock you can’t seem to let go of no matter how much teasing you receive from your family? Or maybe you are hanging on to a flower you wore to prom?
We all have reasons for keeping items. Items are associated with emotions. Even the items you don’t want trigger emotions.
Some people have a disorder that makes it difficult for them to get rid of any item, whether sentimental or not. In fact, throwing away an item can lead to extreme anxiety and make them feel as if they are in an emotional crisis.
This disorder is called hoarding.
What Are Hoarding Disorder Causes?
Hoarding is defined by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America as the need to acquire and save items. This is not the same as collecting, where a person takes considerable pride in sorting and displaying the item acquired.
Hoarders save items that others may see as useless. Any item can be hoarded, including pets, newspapers, magazines and even trash.
Hoarding makes you feel as if you cannot get rid of anything you own.
Not only can it be hard to get rid of items, hoarders also have difficulty organizing. This can lead to functional impairments such as loss of living space and health hazards.
A person who hoards often violates fire codes. In addition, you can easily trip and fall when trying to maneuver through the clutter in the home.
Hoarding can become disruptive to relationships and to the ability to live a healthy lifestyle. Some hoarders are sometimes trying to cope with loneliness or drug and alcohol abuse. Others are grieving or dealing with a trauma.
If you are wondering if you have hoarding tendencies, check out the reasons people hoard to see if you can relate to any of them.
Many reasons include a connection to mental health disorders. All of which are treatable with the assistance of trained mental health professionals.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder or OCD is connected to hoarding when you feel like something negative will happen to you if you discard an item. There may even be times when you feel the need to acquire items you perceive has having been contaminated.
You feel if you collect the contaminated item, you are protecting others from being around the contamination. This leads you to not wanting to ever discard the item, to protect others.
There are many ways to cope with obsessive compulsive behaviors. Medication and therapy are two great ways to begin overcoming disorders such as this.
Because Your Family Did It
If you parents were hoarders, you may also be prone to hoarding. The environment in which we grew up influences your adulthood. If you were never taught to organize and sort through material objects, you are likely to have clutter.
If the house you grew up in was chaotic and unhealthy, you may tend to hoard. This is because the act of hoarding can give you a sense of calm in a frantic environment.
Changing habits can seem hard but once you do this, you can observe yourself and your situation realistically. Then you can amend the areas that need fixing.
Everyone has traumas throughout their lives. One common trauma is the loss of a loved one or loss of something very important. During the grieving period, you may seek ways to ease the pain. One way may be to collect items.
A collection of items may offer you a sense of security that you will not be abandoned. It may also make you feel as if your pain eases with each item collected.
Finding ways to overcome post-traumatic stress can help you learn to grieve properly and move on with life, instead of being stuck in the grieving process.
Reports suggest anxiety disorder can trigger the need to hoard. One study found that those who hoard have difficulty coping with negative emotions.
Anxiety can operate in two ways when you hoard. One, the feeling of anxiety is sometimes eased when you find an item you want to keep. Two, if you are faced with discarding that item, you become extremely anxious and uncomfortable.
Learning to cope with anxiety the right way is essential in overcoming hoarding tendencies.
It has been shown that activity levels in the brain of hoarders is quite different that the chemicals in non-hoarders.
The chemical serotonin has been found to play a key role in disorders such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses. These are all connected to hoarding.
The brain, if damaged in development or through an injury, can create hoarding behaviors.
Neurologists, working in conjunction with your therapist, can formulate a plan of recovery.
Steps Lead to Recovery
There are specific steps you can take to get on the path to recovery from hoarding compulsions.
- Ask for help. Tell a family member or friend you want help. You can also call a local mental health center. Just reaching out for help can be the hardest part. Once you do reach out, the rest will fall into place.
- Seek an evaluation from a Psychiatrist or Psychologist. These mental health professionals are trained to assess and diagnose your symptoms. They are trained in many different disorders and can help you figure out how to ease your symptoms.
- Therapy, both individual and family, is needed for you to learn how to get to the root of the problem and change behaviors. It is in therapy that you will learn why you hoard and how to replace hoarding actions with more positive behaviors.
- Medications for anxiety or depression can be beneficial in treating a hoarding disorder. They are best when combined with therapeutic treatments lead by counselors and doctors.
If you are having any questions about whether you are a hoarder, seek the input of a mental health professional. Just being able to acknowledge the problem is one of hardest, yet most important things you can do.
Hoarding can put restraints on your life, but it doesn’t have to. Many people recover from hoarding disorders. You can be one of them!