Posts Tagged ‘Hoarding’

Hoarding Misunderstood

May 1, 2010

Millions of people in the United States are hoarders. One may hoard books, papers, knick knacks, clothing, food, even animals. The average person will view this as pure laziness, sloppiness or neglect. And what they don’t understand is that hoarding is a mental disorder. Some will have obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and it may or may not be genetic.

Even families who have dealt with a hoarder for many years may be extremely frustrating. They may have separated themselves from the hoarder. This can be from countless attempts to help their hoarding loved one with cleaning, financial help or embarrassment as far back as from childhood.

Socially, hoarders suffer greatly as does the rest of the family.  Spending holidays together is non existent. There are no sleepovers for children nor friends of any age that come over for visits. The hoarder and their family can barely move inside the home much less have anyone else over. If the hoarder has young children they risk losing them, even losing the home because of the excessive clutter.

Animal hoarders love animals in their own way although law enforcement disagree. Most view it as neglect or abuse. There have been cases of animal hoarders with hundreds of animals (which includes those found dead) in or around a home. Most of the animals are decimated, have diseases and live in filth. Still though, the animal hoarder believes they are doing the best they can. They believe they are saving the animals from death if they were to be sent to the animal shelter. These hoarders feel that the animals are kind and understanding unlike humans who are scathing, uncaring, misunderstood about them.

Unless the hoarder is under treatment and support the chances are very high they will repeat the pattern again. It is important for the family, friends and public to understand what hoarding is and what can be done.


A Little About Animal Hoarding

April 15, 2010

A serious and poorly understood form of hoarding is Animal Hoarding (Patronek & Nathanson, 2009). Approximately 1,500 new cases of animal hoarding occur each year.  An animal  hoarder has a need to have large amounts of animals that may include

collecting dogs, cats, goats, horses, snakes or others in excess. This leads to deteriorating conditions in which water and food become scarce. Typically there is the stench of urine and piles of feces along with carcasses of dead animals. Animal Hoarders view what they are doing as an act of love and see nothing wrong with what they are doing. Most are in denial they are doing anything wrong and cannot see that what they are doing is quite destructive and most of all, a health hazard. Most places in the US

will allow for 2-5 animals without a permit. Hoarders will collect 15, 25, 50

maybe even 100 animals. This doesn’t mean all are alive though. Law

enforcement officials and Psychiatrists do not understand much about Animal

Hoarding. Sadly there are many cases in which hoarders are punished as criminals

rather than being treated for a mental illness.  Recently I was watching an episode

of TLC’s new series, Hoarding: Buried Alive. An elderly lady and her husband

hoarded cats. It was their way of not feeling lonely and they felt useful. It was the

husband who fed the cats daily but it was the wife who was being charged with

animal cruelty and neglect. Both estimated they had around 20-30 cats and kittens.

When animal control arrived to collect up the cats and kittens they collected nearly

50 live and dead. Later when the interventionists came in to help clean and

support the husband and wife, nearly 60 carcasses were discovered.  One thing you

will find in majority of hoarders homes is garbage. The garbage may be stacked

high in the kitchen and bathroom, several feet high. Garbage that has been in the

home for long periods of time may have caused serious damage to the structure of

the home, thus making it a hazardous situation (Williams, 2000). This can cause the home to be condemned. If you ask a hoarder why they

collect things many will answer because it is comforting to

them. They feel useful when they have things that bring them comfort or knowing

that one day down the road someone will need that certain item. Throwing items

away that belongs to a hoarder can be very traumatic. Even the thought of throwing

an item away that has no use left is difficult for a hoarder to discard. Every item a

hoarder has is meaningful to them in one way or another. Sometimes there are items

in a hoarders life that have significant meaning that may be taboo

for anyone else to touch. The item can be from childhood during a critical time: a now tattered teddy bear, poster, trophy, etc.

The hoarder and the family

February 13, 2010

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.

Affects of Hoarding

February 7, 2010

Hoarding is a mental disorder that not only affects the hoarder themselves, it greatly affects the family members. Emotionally it can take a toll on family. Imagine not being able to invite family and friends over for get togethers, celebrate holidays, birthdays and other special occasions because the house is too cluttered or the plumbing doesn’t work properly. Families are not able to sit at the kitchen table to enjoy a home cooked meal. Most families of hoarders have to depend on take out food thus costing the family an enormous amount of money. Shame engulfs the hoarder and the family.

Family members and possibly the hoarders themselves are embarrassed by the clutter. They don’t want other family, friends or even the repairman to come inside and see the mess. Unless the hoarder is willing and wanting to accept help the clutter will continue to pile up resulting in serious consequences in the future. Family members also start to feel cut off from the rest of the world. Children cannot have sleep overs in fear of embarrassment or that Child Protective Services will come and take them away. Spouses or significant others are at wits end having had tried to help the hoarder by cleaning until they realize it is way too much for them to handle anymore. Financially speaking, hoarders and the families suffer sometimes serious consequences. Constant purchasing of items brings comfort to a hoarder though in the long run credit cards are maxed out, funds in bank accounts are dwindling.

Fire hazards, health hazards, structural compromises are just a few of the consequences hoarders and their families will face unless there is professional intervention. It does not matter how much family or friends do for a hoarder if one is not willing to accept help. To say that a family member is enabling the person by allowing them to continue hoarding is naive response.

Hoarders live in fear that any items they throw away, any animals they give away or food they discard may be needed later. They live with a  “just in case” attitude all the time. They feel they are acting reasonable, sometimes as if they are helpful to others having that item someone may need. However, there are some hoarders who, may have items that are special in that they will not under any circumstances get rid of or give them away.

Collecting things is a comfort for hoarders. They do not comprehend that continuously collecting things adding to their clutter cuts them off from the rest of the world. Many hoarders do not have much if any of a social life. They are isolated in their own homes. It is a financial strain to be a hoarder or the family member of a hoarder. Embarrassment is one of the biggest reasons why a hoarder will not seek out help. Families are ashamed besides feeling helpless. A hoarder must be the one to ultimately be willing to accept help and the family must be willing to provide support as the hoarder seeks out treatment. It is known that medication, therapy and support go hand in hand for a hoarder to become a productive, healthy person again.


February 4, 2010

Hoarding does not discriminate. Recent research has indicated that hoarding can be genetic. A hoarder may not have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

Children can be hoarders just as adults are. Hoarding can be due to a traumatic situation, mental disorder such as OCD.