Living with Hoarding

What’s Going On?

Hoarding disorder is a condition in which a sufferer has a difficult time letting go of objects. The thought of doing so produces tremendous anxiety. They often have huge collections of items that most people would think of as garbage: newspapers, magazines, old wrapping paper, junk mail, plastic containers, animals and so on. The condition may affect as many as 1 in 20 people. Hoarding is no longer considered a subset of OCD, and is now classified in the DSM-5 as it’s own entity.

How Do I Know it’s Hoarding?

It’s normal to want to keep items that have sentimental value. It’s OK to hold onto things that you might want to use later down the line. But for Hoarding sufferers, a great amount of anxiety is caused by the idea of letting things go. Hoarding is no longer considered a subset of OCD, however, there are similarities between the disorders.

Everyday examples:

  • You’re an artist and become so attached to your artwork that you refuse to sell it. Eventually, the artwork piles up and you’re restricted to a very small space in your apartment.   
  • You feed stray cats and welcome stray cats into your home. You adopt more cats from shelters because you think they can’t find good homes elsewhere. Soon, your life is overrun with cats.
  • You refuse to throw away a perfectly good, but used, plastic container even if you already have 300 others just like it.

Is Recovery Possible for Me?

Treating Hoarding is very difficult. Often times, sufferers do not see their behaviors as problematic. While their hoarding impacts their lives, they also believe it is justified because of their emotional attachment to the items they are keeping around.  

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, also known as CBT, is the recommended treatment option. CBT teaches people to identify, understand and change negative thinking patterns and behaviors. Patients are taught problem-solving skills during therapy lessons and then instructed to practice them on their own time in order to build positive habits.  

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