Hoarding is a disease that spreads, but how can you tell if you have a disease or are just messy and untidy? After all, organization doesn’t come naturally to everyone, but most must learn it. But there is a big difference between disorganized and disorganized and compulsive hoarding.
A compulsive hoarder will acquire and store items that he believes have value and importance. Typically, people with hoarding characteristics also have some other related condition, such as obsessive compulsive disorder, dementia, or Alzheimer’s disease. Of course, hoarding can also manifest itself. Researchers usually recognize it as part of an OCD disorder. Most hoarders display compulsive ordering and counting behavior. They tend to be perfectionists and indecisive.
The signs of compulsive hoarding go far beyond a messy home. They cannot normally limit or control what they are collecting, but they continue to collect these things. They will keep shopping and even check neighborhood trash for more information. They often like to inspect and count their collections and may even display a behavior known as trichotillomania, which is abnormal grooming behavior. This is nail biting, compulsive hair pulling, or skin picking.
The real illness is not just the disorder in their homes, but how they look and think about their things. Usually this is based on fear. The fear of running out of something or throwing it away and needing it in the future. There may also be excessive emotional attachment to items, which is part of the reason they like to pile them up to keep in sight rather than put away.
Hoarders have a hard time throwing anything away for fear that it is the wrong decision. That’s why they keep everything. They avoid the decision to throw it away to avoid the anxiety and torment they would experience when taking any other action. It is also an element of control at work. Keeping the items gives them control over themselves and their lives.
Clutter in the hoarders’ house is only a symptom and clutter does not, in itself, mean that someone is a compulsive hoarder. You have to look at the big picture to make that determination. You also need to see the whole picture in order to help them. Decide if they need some organizational skills or direct therapy in order to manage their lives.