More people than you may realize suffer from a disorder referred to as 'compulsive hoarding'. There is no way of knowing for sure how many people are actually compulsive hoarders but it's estimated that around 1.2 million people may suffer from this disorder. People who suffer from compulsive hoarding acquire an extreme amount of possessions or belonging usually in their living and work space. Their homes become hazardous and unsanitary due to the excessive amount of clutter and debris making it not only dangerous but unhealthy.
Compulsive hoarding is similar to addiction in the sense that the individual is unable to control their behavior no matter what the consequences are.
Hoarding and compulsive hoarding are not exactly the same, what separates the two is that compulsive hoarding is associated with the fact that a person's hoarding behavior impairs their ability to function properly, which includes cooking, maintaining personal hygiene, and sleeping. Excessive hoarding becomes dangerous and most often a fire or health hazard. A hoarder is unable to get rid of anything no matter how much clutter has accumulated and no matter how chaotic or dangerous their life becomes as a result of their hoarding.
A hoarders living space or home is most often so cramped and cluttered there are stacks and mounds of possessions throughout the entire living area making it impossible to move around safely. Cluttered rooms and hallways are usually piled to the ceiling with boxes and mounds of items that will never be used, needed, and definitely never be thrown away.
Appliances like stoves, washing machines and dryers are piled so high with items and debris they're unusable, sometimes it's been years since they were last used and are now just storage space. It is sometimes a challenge to walk into a compulsive hoarder's front or back door. In order to get from room to room you have to walk over mounds of clutter to maneuver your way through and this is extremely unsafe. Some people extend the clutter from the inside of their home to the outside with furniture, boxes, and debris on porches, back yards, driveways and in the garage.
Many compulsive hoarders are unable to bathe properly due to piled high cluttered bathrooms or prepare food because there is no clear spot in their kitchens to cook or make a meal. Not only is there no area in their homes safe to sleep in but many hoarders who also have pets have animal feces everywhere and their homes are unsanitary.
Most hoarders don't even realize they have a problem even though they know their homes are different compared to other family or friends homes. Family members usually don't understand what's happening to their loved one or why they're living that way. Sometimes people think a compulsive hoarder is just sloppy and lazy not realizing this is a major mental health issue. When a compulsive hoarder is faced with getting rid of items, any item at all, they're devastated.
Many hoarders don't even throw trash away and have pile after pile of bagged up trash inside and outside of their homes which leads to bugs and rodent infestation making things much more hazardous and unsanitary.
Animal hoarding is another compulsive hoarding behavior some people suffer from and keep an excessive number of animals as their pets. They don't have the proper space or conditions to care for the animals and are unable to take care of them properly. These people are not animal abusers; they love their animals and would never consciously think of harming them. They don't realize that they're animals are not being cared for properly and they don't even realize they have too many to take care of. These people are never cruel to their animals intentionally but at the same time the animals are living in unsanitary and deplorable conditions.
Animal hoarders are not to be confused with many unethical animal breeders who keep large numbers of animals in deplorable conditions for breeding purposes. These people don't love or care about their animals only that they breed and make money. Unfortunately animal hoarders don't understand that because they don't have proper space and conditions to care for an excessive amount of animals, this is unhealthy, unsanitary and unsafe even though they take care of their animals the best they can and love them.
Without the proper help and treatment for animal or other compulsive forms of hoarding it's impossible for a person to stop on their own. Sometimes animal hoarders are put on probation when their animals are seized due to hoarding. Without help some people go right back to hoarding animals again.
Treatment for Compulsive Hoarding
It's unclear as to whether hoarding is a symptom of obsessive-compulsive disorder or not. Many people suffer from OCD and around 25 to 40 percent of them have the symptoms of compulsive hoarding. There is help for compulsive hoarders and treatment requires the guidance and support of skilled therapists to help the individual understand their compulsive behavior and develop the skills and behavior changes needed to get better.
Interventions can be done with a professional therapist who is experienced and skilled in the area of hoarding to help the person understand their hoarding behavior and the seriousness of it. Many therapists use cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) when treating compulsive hoarding. If a mental health issue is also involved like obsessive compulsive disorder, cognitive behavior therapy is very effective treating both disorders at the same time.