For some, the only experience with the compulsive disorder known as hoarding comes from watching the popular reality television show that follows people with this condition. For many others, however, hoarding behavior is something they may have to experience on a more personal level, either in their own family or within their circle of friends and acquaintances. In fact, according to statistics compiled by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, hoarding behavior affects as much as five percent of the population. While this number may sound small, it is actually two times higher than the rate of diagnosed obsessive-compulsive disorders (OCDs) and four times the rate of bipolar and schizophrenia disorders.
The Difference Between a Collector and Hoarder
It can be easy to assume that people who collect certain objects or memorabilia are hoarders, but there are clear-cut differences between a collector and a hoarder. A collector, even one with an extensive collection, focuses on certain items that have actual monetary or sentimental value to them and either displays or stores them in a relatively neat and organized manner.
Conversely, someone who suffers from hoarding disorder is likely to focus on items that have little or no value, such as newspapers, junk mail, broken items or even trash. These items will not be stored neatly and, instead, will begin to fill up the living spaces of the home and interfere with daily life. In some instances, hoarding behavior can even extend to storing excessive amounts of food or taking in an unhealthy number of pets.
In addition, someone who collects items in a relatively healthy manner will usually welcome the chance to show their collection to others. However, someone who is experiencing unhealthy hoarding behavior will often begin to shun visitors and may even refuse to allow necessary repair or service personnel into the home, due to the deteriorating condition of the home.
How to Help Your Loved One
Because people who exhibit hoarding behavior are often secretive and emotionally attached to the objects they hoard, it can be extremely difficult to help family members and friends with this problem. You will need to educate yourself about the condition and maintain a patient and caring approach, even when your loved one rebuffs your initial attempts to discuss the problem.
Once you are able to get them to engage in a conversation about their hoarding behavior, there are some practical actions that you can try, including:
- encouraging your loved one to seek professional counseling
- helping them become less reclusive by frequently inviting them out for coffee, lunch or a movie
- assisting them with cleaning and organizing
Helpful Services to Consider When Embarrassment Is an Issue
Often, people dealing with hoarding are embarrassed about the condition of their home and reluctant to allow a loved one to help them, even when they feel too overwhelmed to tackle the problem on their own. If your loved one will not allow you to enter their home to assist with cleaning it, consider providing them with resources that will help encourage them to begin taking action on their own, such as gifting them with a roll off dumpster service.
Because a roll off dumpster allows for the disposal of bulky items and a large volume of trash, it is well suited for use in a hoarding situation, where it can be left in place for an extended time-frame. When discussing the dumpster rental with your local trash service, be sure to alert them to the situation you are dealing with and ask them to direct any communication about the rental to you, instead of the person you are helping. This will help prevent your loved one from feeling any unnecessary stress or embarrassment about their situation and increase their chances of gaining control over their behavior.