Tag Archive: hoarding

Three Symptoms of Compulsive Hoarding Behavior

If a person enjoys collecting things, does that automatically make them a hoarder? NO. There are three common symptoms of compulsive hoarding behavior to watch out for.

Symptom #1:
The person will have an irrepressible obsession with acquiring material items. These items do not even need to be acquired through shopping, it is common for hoarders to get them from the trash and from other people.

Symptom # 2:
The compulsive hoarders living space becomes so over-ridden with these items, that it makes it very difficult for the person to move around and function normally in the space. As the rooms become more and more cluttered, they become completely unusable.

Symptom # 3:
The person who is exhibiting the hoarding behavior shows signs of diminished functionality because of this disorganization and may also begin to suffer from depression.

A person can only be diagnosed with compulsive hoarding behavior if all three symptoms are present. The compulsion has to be so overwhelming that it actually causes visible problems in the life of the person affected.

Compulsive hoarders have a tendency to perpetually attain as well as save material possessions indefinitely. Even when items are useless and maybe even hazardous. It is quite common for hoarders to save items for years or even decades.

To better comprehend to emotional state of the hoarder, here is a common hoarding scenario:

A man in his sixties has attempted to get some professional help with his hoarding behavior. His wife has left him and his children have moved out because he refuses to get rid of the junk that has accumulated in the house over many years.

He feels helpless, but is not capable of throwing away the items.

The kitchen has a lot of old food containers, wrappers and trash on the floor. The living room is completely full of boxes of junk and there is only a narrow walking path within that room.

The fire department becomes aware of the situation and deems his house as “not up to code”. They then give him a deadline to clean up his home and advise him that is if it is not completed by that date that the city will be forced to take action. Even after being given a warning about the situation, his compulsion to attain items through uncontrollable shopping and through ‘roadside trash collecting’ has not ceased.

What does it feel like to be him?

When he walks down a street, he actively avoids going by newsstands, because he knows that he will have the compulsion to purchase an excessive number of magazines and newspapers. If he does, the new purchases will then wind up in some random box in the living room – again.

He is uncontrollably drawn to the newsstand, thinking that maybe those newspapers and magazines will contain information that will hold the key to turning his life around for the better.

He also feels this way when he observes people throwing away broken furniture, appliances or gadgets in the trash. He looks through dumpsters and trash cans regularly (at least once a week) to acquire stuff. He feels as though if something can be repaired or ‘isn’t in that bad of shape’, then it is worth saving.

When the professional organizer/therapist arrives, they start off slow. The therapist asks the man to choose just a few items to throw away (items that have no use and are not needed).

When he attempts to throw away a small piece of paper with some random notes scribbled on it, he feels like he can do it at first, but then he starts to get frantic as the scrap of paper falls into the trash can.

The reason? He feels like he is throwing away a piece of himself.

Hoarding Assessment Checklists

Checklist 1

Put a check mark when risk/hazard

is found

Some areas in the home have visible fire hazards

Hoarding of excrement and/or urine

Bathroom has no running water

Bathroom is unusable and unsanitary

Emergency personnel will be unable to enter the house quickly due to hoard

Windows cannot be opened from the inside

Doors cannot be opened or can barely be opened

Stairs are unsafe to use

Living room floor has clutter

Bedroom floor has clutter

Dining room floor has clutter

Materials are piled high from floor to ceiling

There are piles of heavy materials

There are unstable piles of materials that can shatter or break (e.g. glass)

There are sharp items mixed with the floor clutter or piles

Electrical wiring is unsafe

There are no smoke alarms

Smoke alarms are present but are defective

An area or several areas inside the home have pooled water

Structural damage is present

Stairways are physically damaged and are not usable

Rotting food is present

Insect infestation found

Rodent infestation found

Dead animals are found mixed with the clutter

There is presence of animal waste inside the house

There is presence of fluids such as blood and vomit

Some parts of the home are structurally compromised due to molds and other fungus

Running water is not present in other parts of the home

Electricity has been shut off

Garbage collection has been discontinued

Click here to download and print Hoarding Assessment Checklist #1

Checklist 2

Rate the ability

of the person to conduct a specific activity

Scale: 1 – 5

He/she is able to cook in the kitchen and prepare his/her own food properly.

He/she is able to make full use of the refrigerator.

He/she is able to safely use the stove or oven.

He/she is able to use the kitchen sink and counters.

The dining room table is not cluttered or is at least usable. The person is able to eat on the table.

He/she can navigate the house safely and is able to access all the areas of the home.

He/she is able to use the bathroom and the toilet.

He/she is able to use the sink in the bathroom.

When someone knocks on the door, he/she is able to respond quickly and he/she can reach the door quickly, as well.

He/she sleeps in the bedroom and on the bed.

He/she is able to do laundry (there is running water, washing machine is working, laundry area is accessible, etc.)

He/she is capable of finding important documents with ease.

He/she is able to care for animals adequately.

Click here to download and print Hoarding Assessment Checklist #2

Why Are They Hoarding Food?

Hoarding of food is a common type of hoarding disorder. As with other types of hoarding, food hoarding usually begins as a result of anxiety. Quite often hoarders collect items because they are afraid that if they discard them, something of significance will be lost. Some hoarders experience a extreme sense of grief when they try to give away any of their possessions. These fears of loss seem to stem from an exaggerated responsibility of being prepared for any possible situation and of not wanting to waste things.

Compulsive hoarders also have trouble making even small decisions, such as what to wear or what to eat. Since hoarding does tend to run in families, it could be influenced by modeling behavior or transmitted genetically. Some researchers believe that the reason why individuals hoard food is because they may have experienced some sort of deprivation earlier in their lifetime.

Obsessive food hoarding presents a multitude of concerns. Rotten food or contaminated food containers can become a health hazard that can cause illness and attract pests like flies, roaches, mice or even rats. Most hoarders do not even acknowledge that their excessive accumulation of clutter is a problem. They may think that their behavior is sensible and that saving things is beneficial. They also become oblivious to the odor of rancid food or the harmful health risks associated with it.

Each case of hoarding is unique. However, while everyone is different and people hoard for different reasons, it is believed that those who hoard food do it as a result of past experiences. Sometimes, it is due to the fact that the individual was neglected when they were younger. Their basic needs for life-sustaining food may have been denied or inadequately met. Food hoarders will rationalize keeping a particular food item even if it is expired. They are often in denial about the harm they are doing to their own bodies from eating expired foods.

Those individuals who hoard food also have a tendency to buy large quantities of food items that are on sale and are unable to curb their perpetual need to purchase items. They generally think they are conserving, but ironically compulsive food hoarders often waste more food than the average individual because they often let uneaten food to become moldy and expired or lost in the clutter.


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