Is Hoarding A Mental Illness?
Hoarding disorder is the repetitive accumulation of unnecessary items, when these items are no longer needed. The first signs begin around ages 11 to 15 and become noticeably worse as the person ages. It’s considered a mental illness because the act of accumulating unnecessary items, to the point of causing a health hazard, is not considered normal.
Hoarding is more common in older adults than in younger adults. It is not known what causes hoarding disorder, but it is believed that personality, family history and stressful live events might play a role. People with this disorder tend to be indecisive; for instance, they may excessively weigh the pros and cons of throwing away a receipt.
Most people either keep a receipt or discard it. But someone who is prone to developing this mental condition, will lean towards holding onto many receipts for various reasons:
- They believe that they will need the receipts in the near future
- The receipts may have some important emotional significance
- They don’t want to waste the receipts
- They feel safer by holding onto the evidence
. . . and the list goes on. It’s important to note that hoarding and collecting are not the same thing. Someone who has a collection is not adversely affected by it: their living environment is not cluttered and does not bring upon distress or an impairment. But someone with hoarding disorder may not be able to cook in the kitchen or shower in the bathroom, due to the severity of the cluttering.
There are many problems that come along with this mental illness. Some people hoard trash, causing their place to become extremely unsanitary. This poses a risk to their health and wellbeing. In addition, many hoarders develop significant conflicts in their relationships, especially with those who try to help them by removing the clutter from their home.
Other complications due to hoarding may include:
- Creating a fire hazard
- Social isolation (they are embarrassed of their situation and don’t want anyone to know about it)
- Increased risk of falls (especially in the elderly)
- Poor work performance (they are mentally distracted and preoccupied with the accumulation of specific items)
. . . and the list goes on again. It’s been observed that people with hoarding disorder also may experience depression, anxiety, OCD or ADHD. It makes sense when you connect these other mental disorders: someone with depression may not care enough about their living environment; someone with anxiety may be too afraid of the consequences of discarding something; someone with OCD may have negative thoughts about discarding items; and someone with ADHD may be too distracted to care enough about maintaining a sanitary environment.
There is no actual causation behind hoarding disorder that has been discovered. But as you can see, it’s related to other mental disorders based on common symptoms and traits. No mental disorder is unique on its own; everything is interrelated to a certain extent. How great that relation is depends on the disorders being considered. For instance, 30-50% of patients with Tourette’s disorder have OCD!
Hoarding disorder is a mental illness.
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