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compulsive hoarding
junk mail
hoarder
invasion of privacy
living spaces
possessions
companionship
resentment
affection
clutter
The Effects Of Hoarding: On Hoarders And The People In Their Lives
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Compulsive hoarding affects more than the hoarder. The effects of hoarding are also felt by their families, their friends, and others with whom they have relationships.

If you’re living with a hoarder, you are probably frustrated in your attempts to clear out the clutter surrounding you. After all, it’s not yours to clear out. And it would be perceived as an invasion of privacy or attempt to control the life of the hoarder. The more your push, the more resistance you are likely to meet.

A hoarder may gain a sense of security or safety from their possessions. Trying to reason with someone who feels possessions give them a sense of security, is stressful for everyone. The more possessions a hoarder can accumulate, the safer they feel in their environment. What they may not realize is that they push away people that can give them the very things they are trying to gain: affection, love, happiness, attention, or companionship. Even if they do realize this, they are unlikely to feel capable of doing anything about it. And pushing them to get rid of their possessions makes the hoarder feel you are taking away the things that make them feel safe and secure.

Family and friends of a hoarder are often mystified by the chaos they see in the living spaces of the person who stockpiles everything from junk mail to clothes to food. It is distressing to them -- often to the point that it becomes more like a chore to visit the hoarder. And trying to help often leads to complications in the relationship with a hoarder. Other than seeking the advice and counsel of a support group or therapist, there is little you can do on your own, Trying to help often leads to feelings of resentment on both sides: the hoarder resent people touching their precious things and the people trying to help resent the fact that the hoarder won’t let go of useless items.

Hoarding affects quality of life. People who hoard can’t use the living spaces for the purposes for which they were intended. It is typical to find stacks, piles, and mounds of hoarded items on every counter, table, or other space in the home including the floor. It is hard to maneuver around in the rooms. Visitors can’t sit on sofas and chairs or they have to move piles out of the way to do so and find there is no place to put them but on top of other piles.

A person who keeps every piece of paper that enters their home can’t find important papers in the mounds piled up on the desk, or can’t use the dining tables, other tables, or sleep in their beds due to stacks in the way. Books are often hoarded to the point where any shelving space is overstuffed, hard to extract things from, and often falling apart from the sheer weight of it all. Paper hoarding is a fire hazard as one little spark can set the entire array of paper ablaze in no time.

For food hoarders, refrigerators are stuffed with a combination of old and new food items. The fridge is not cleaned out before the next grocery run and more just gets crammed into the unit until there is no way of knowing what is in its deepest recesses. Food items are found everywhere -- unopened or half-eaten -- containers, plates, flatware abound. This creates a very unhealthy environment for the hoarder and visitors who may distrust the quality of any food the hoarder offers them. It causes an unhealthy situation for the hoarder as well -- especially if their presence of mind is questionable and they unwittingly ingest expired or rotting food. And, of course, there is a risk of bug infestation as well.

Embarrassment is another effect of hoarding -- for the hoarder and their family and friends. When visiting, it is difficult not to mention the elephant in the room. And the instinct or impulse to help clean up is often met with resistance at least, an argument at worst. Communications can break down and people may tend to visit less and less in order to avoid an unpleasant experience.

An especially embarrassing type of hoarding is collecting pets. Collecting multiple pets offer more to a hoarder than collecting paper and clothing. Pets are warm, responsive, entertaining, and offer unconditional affection and companionship -- all the things that may be missing emotionally in the life of the hoarder. However, by nature, the hoarder will accumulate too many pets and find it hard to keep up with the upkeep. It is not uncommon to find open cans of pet food with portions leftover sitting about and an overflowing litter box, or feces, urine, and flea infestations in any room in the house or apartment. Hoarding pets can lead to very unsanitary conditions and health risks for people and animals alike.

Although the disorder of hoarding can manifest at any age, it is especially noticeable in an elderly person who has been hoarding for years. The older they get the more they accumulate and the more stacks and mounds of hoarded materials pile up. And the more consequences as the mountains of stuff can impair movement and cause situations where the elderly person is more likely to fall and hurt themselves.

It is difficult to understand the special attachments a hoarder places on items that, to others, are meaningless. The causes of excessive or compulsive hoarding are difficult to pinpoint since each person affected by this disorder is unique and each has their own personal reasons whether realized or known or not. Whatever the reasons, hoarding creates strife in the lives of the hoarder and their families and friends. The effects are felt by everyone, especially those who only want to help.


Street Talk

  

Hi Joan! Thanks for reading my article. I wrote one on the causes as well. Some reasons are deeply emotional. Sounds like your friend has suffered a profound loss and doesn't want to lose any more and has attached emotional value to her appliances. It is hard to understand. It's like trying to understand addiction if you've never had one.

Reply
  about 1 decade ago
Joan S  

You are describing a terrible nightmare. I know a hoarder. She collects small appliances. They're never taken out of their boxes, and she won't give anyone anything. Her nephew needed a toaster. She has about 25 new toasters. She won't part with anything. I find it hard to understand.

Reply
  about 1 decade ago
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