How to Tell if You’re a Hoarder
Marie Kondo, the bestselling author, and star of the Netflix hit show Tidying Up with Marie Kondo has inspired millions of Americans to declutter their homes with her revolutionary KonMari Method. Basically, you hold each item and see if it “sparks joy.” If it does you keep it, if it doesn’t you toss it. Although the tidying craze has taken the country by storm, it strikes fear and panic in some people. You may be one of them. Answer the following questions to find out:
- Does just hearing the name of decluttering expert Marie Kondo fill you with panic?
- Does the idea of parting with your possessions spark dread rather than joy?
- Do you consistently have trouble tossing out things most people would consider to be of little to no value?
- Do you feel like you have little control over your desires to acquire more possessions?
- Is there so much clutter in your home that it is difficult to access certain areas or countertops?
- Does the clutter interfere with your daily life, work, or relationships?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may have a problem with hoarding.
What is Hoarding Disorder?
A 2018 study shows that hoarding affects approximately 1.5% of Americans or about 4.5 to 5 million people. People with hoarding disorder have trouble getting rid of things due to a perceived need to keep them. The thought of discarding items causes distress, which leads to unwieldy quantities of “important” things piling up. People with hoarding disorder may engage in compulsive shopping; buy things they don’t need or really want simply because they are a great bargain; and stockpile freebies and giveaways, such as pamphlets, pens, and tchotchkes. The hoarding process is similar to an addiction.
Some of the most commonly hoarded items include:
- Paper bags
- Shopping bags
- Plastic bags
- Cardboard boxes
Many hoarders think these items may be useful in the future— “I might need this box to mail something,” “I might have to reference that article,” or “I might get invited to an event where I could wear those shoes.” Some hoarders cling to items because they were such a good bargain— “I know these shoes are a size too small, but they were 80% off!” Others can’t part with photos or other mementos that have sentimental value—” I can’t get rid of that beer can. It’s from the game when we hit a grand slam in the 9th inning to win.” Sometimes people can’t decide what to do with an item or where to put it, so they just leave it wherever it is and then it gets covered by a pile of other things—“I can’t decide if I should put that on the bookshelf or the mantle, so I’ll just leave it here on the dining room table for now.”
How is Hoarding Different from Collecting?
People who are collectors—whether they collect wine, comic books, or coins—typically organize their collections meticulously, display them proudly for others to see, and are very aware of their dollar value. Hoarders, on the other hand, generally amass large quantities of items that have no real value, store them in haphazard disarray, and are often embarrassed to let anyone else see their living space. Some hoarders, however, are ultra-fastidious about their belongings, stacking a year’s worth of newspapers in a perfectly neat row, arranging stacks of books alphabetically on each stair of a staircase, or organizing magazines by date in precise piles on a desk.
Consequences of Hoarding
When hoarding behavior goes unchecked, it can negatively impact nearly every aspect of your life.
Relationships and families suffer: When one person is a hoarder, it can be extremely stressful for the entire family. Research shows that hoarders are more likely to get divorced, and family members may feel resentment, frustration, and anger toward the hoarder. For example, one elderly hoarder named Bob had kept every single bill he ever paid—starting in the 1950s—in a methodical system of filing cabinets that eventually took over the bedroom he shared with his wife, then the dining room, and then the garage. This caused conflict with his wife, who resented the loss of space in her bedroom, and it created a situation of social isolation for his children who were so embarrassed by all the filing cabinets in their home that they never wanted to invite their friends over.
Financial trouble: Some hoarders get into financial trouble, either because they compulsively make purchases or because they shell out cash for storage units to keep their growing amounts of stuff.
Legal issues: Legal troubles are also common among hoarders. They may face eviction or lose custody of children, and in cases of animal hoarding, people may be arrested and do jail time.
Unsafe living conditions: When clutter blocks access to certain areas of the home, it can lead to malfunctioning appliances, plumbing problems, and heating and air conditioning issues. This can leave people without access to hot water, without heat in cold winter months, and limits their ability to cook. This can lead to nutritional deficiencies, poor hygiene, and increased risk of illnesses. Hoarding can also present a fire hazard and is responsible for 24% of fire deaths, according to one study.
Hoarding, Mental Health, and the Brain
People with hoarding disorder tend to have issues with indecisiveness, obsessive thoughts, compulsions, perfectionism, avoidance, procrastination, disorganization, and difficulty concentrating. Although hoarding disorder is considered a unique diagnosis, these are symptoms are also associated with other mental health conditions, such as obsessive compulsive disorder, anxiety, depression, or ADD/ADHD. Research also shows that hoarding is seen in people with dementia.
Brain imaging studies, including one in the Archives of General Psychiatry, have shown that people with hoarding disorder have abnormal activity in areas of the brain involved in decision-making, impulse control, emotional regulation, attachment, and reward processing.
Treatment for Hoarding Disorder
There is hope for people with hoarding disorder. A comprehensive treatment plan designed to normalize and optimize brain activity, coupled with specific types of psychotherapy, and medication (as needed), can help people find their way out of the clutter so they can once again find some joy from their possessions.
At Amen Clinics, we perform comprehensive evaluations that include brain SPECT imaging to make an accurate diagnosis so you can get the right treatment plan for your needs. We believe in using the least toxic, most effective solutions, including helpful forms of therapy, nutritional supplements, and lifestyle changes, as well as medications when necessary.
If you want to join the tens of thousands of people who have already enhanced their brain health, overcome their symptoms, and improved their quality of life at Amen Clinics, speak to a specialist today at 888-288-9834. If all our specialists are busy helping others, you can also schedule a time to talk.