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Hoarding: Buried Beneath the Filth

The house of a compulsive hoarder.
The house of a compulsive hoarder.

It is estimated that one to two million Americans have lifestyles that involve such an entrenched resistance to change, that they choose to surround themselves with massive amounts of discarded trash and waste.

This is known as hoarding.

Statistics show that 15-30 percent of individuals who are diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) also demonstrate hoarding tendencies, according to WebMD.

Studies have shown that individuals who have both OCD and exhibit hoarding symptoms were more likely to have experienced at least one traumatic event in their life, as opposed to those individuals who suffer from OCD alone.

It’s suggested that the person doing the hoarding is trying to fill the traumatic void through means of compulsive shopping and the constant need to collect and hold onto material objects as a way to cope with the grief, loss, or post-traumatic stress.

According to the psychiatry department at the University of California, San Diego, here are a few things to watch out for if you think you or somebody you know may be a hoarder:

Typical Behaviors seen in Compulsive Hoarding:

- Saving more items that can be used or are necessary.
- Avoidance of throwing things away.
- Avoidance of making decisions.
- Avoidance of placing items in appropriate storage areas like closets, drawers or files.
- Pervasive slowness or lateness in completing tasks.

Motivation Behind Compulsive Hoarding:

- Discarding valuable items that may be useful someday.
- Losing important information.
- Making a mistake.
- Being wasteful.
- Losing something that reminds a person of a loved one.

Treatments Available:

Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) using the technique of exposure and response prevention appears to improve compulsive hoarding symptoms, according to MayoClinic. The goal of the technique is to decrease the excessive fear of making decisions, losing important possessions, throwing things away, and organizing saved items out of sight, by gradual exposure to tasks that provoke these fears.

People with compulsive hoarding are encouraged to resist their urges to engage in their usual behaviors. Over time, the hoarder’s anxiety, fear, and compulsive behaviors begin to change, which allows them to view their possessions in a different light.

If not treated, compulsive hoarding can become a debilitating condition that can destroy relationships and tear families apart.

Reclaim your life.

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