Hoarding not only affects the hoarder themselves, but also the family members. It does not matter if the family members live with the hoarder or not. Family members are frustrated, ashamed and even angry with the hoarding situation. In fact, there are situations in which the family members have chose to “disconnect” from the hoarding family member. This is typically after the family member has attempted numerous times to clean up the hoarders mess, deal with others such as neighbors or local government officials over the hoarding matter. They may have even invested financially in dealing with the matter only to find the hoarder has relapsed.
If the hoarder is an older family member their lives may be in jeopardy as well as their housing. If you have ever watched the A&E channel’s show Hoarders you may have seen episodes with older adults who may or may not be living alone. Some have mental disorders while others have experienced traumatizing situations resulting in their hoarding situation. In one episode an older female had been dealing with hoarding most of her life. Her son was removed from the home when he was 8 and forced to live with his older sister which was to have been temporary. This woman had already paid $30,000 in fines to the city she resided in because twice they had to come in and clean up her property. When the show hoarders came in to intervene before the city came in for the third time, the clean up crew had found two cat carcasses inside the home that the woman had no idea about. This woman was highly offended that her neighbors had complained about the mess. She felt they were against her. When her son showed up from Seattle, Wa he had disconnected himself from his mom. As he walked in to the home he was astounded at how much more cluttered and filthy the house had become. The mother wanted him to stay with her and he obviously refused. He came because he hadn’t seen his mother in four years.
In other episodes children had become intolerant of their parents situation. They could not understand why their mother or father was having difficulty parting with a trophy or teddy bear from their childhood. The children who are grown, felt that the parents had more priority over the items that needed to be discarded than them (the children).
While it may seem this way and on the outside many view it as selfish, these hoarders DO have a mental disorder. It is severe in some to the point they don’t have any regard for anyone besides themselves and their collection. Many very important items such as picture in a frame, a teddy bear from childhood or a trophy have major significance in their life.
Perhaps a traumatizing time in child hood such as a major surgery or the death of a close family member affected them to the point that something in their life triggers that memory they are holding on to. There is no switch to automatically turn this off and the person be “normal.”
For hoarders it takes multiple ways of treatment to get them living as productive life as possible. Medication, therapy and support are three vital ways to help a hoarder. Support is by far the most challenging since by the time a hoarder accepts they need help they have already pushed family and friends away. Those people most important in their life have “disconnected” themselves from the whole situation.
Hoarding is to a point becoming accepted as a mental disorder and not someone who is just being flat out lazy. There is a lot to be learned about hoarding. With an estimated 3 million hoarders in the United States alone, it is vital that people become aware of what hoarding is and how it affects everyone.