By Tracy Fromm, Mental Health Counselor for Caring Communities
Do you feel guilty when you throw out a stuffed toy or a favorite well-worn teddy bear from childhood?
Hoarding disorder, a mental health disorder, is increasing from societal pressures and increasing depression and anxiety. Having our “favorite objects” around makes us feel safe and comfortable.
Some of the causes of hoarding disorder are:
- stressful events
- a family history of hoarding
- attachment issues
- untreated depression and anxiety
Many times, people have difficulty with indecisiveness and procrastination. It has been estimated that 18-40% of hoarders have OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder).
Hoarding disorder can last several years or can be lifelong.
80-90% have excessive shopping tendencies and buy unnecessary items they don’t need nor have room for.
How can you tell if you have hoarding disorder?
You may have some of the following symptoms:
- Experiencing distress associated with discarding items
- The hoarding is not caused by any other medical condition
- You have anxiety at the thought of throwing out possessions and when you do, you keep thinking about the item you threw out. You have difficulty parting with possessions.
- You keep items well past their expiration date, rationalizing about the money you will save.
- You saved your schoolwork or cards and letters from 30-40 years ago
- You save slivers of soap, half used bottles of toiletries for years, thinking that these items can be reused at a later date.
- You feel depressed or anxious. Very often, hoarding disorder is treated by antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication.
- You don’t want people at your home or friends don’t want to come over and you make plans to meet elsewhere.
- You feel a sense of disorganization. You forget where you put things and the clutter impedes accessing items.
- You experience difficulty in mobility, getting around your home due to piles of objects. Is there only room for a path to walk?
People with hoarding disorder are not always aware of the seriousness of this disorder. They may lack insight into their disorder and are at risk for health and safety issues.
So, if you believe you have hoarding disorder, particularly accompanied by depression and anxiety, contact your health care provider who can refer you to mental health services. Most often the treatment is psychotherapy and medication.