Hoarding is an interesting thing; it has causes and consequences. Some are the same, some are very different to each person as an individual.
Firstly, let’s define hoarding: It happens when a person is saving lots of different items within their home regardless of whether or not those items add any value to their lives.
Key aspects of hoarding
- Strong attachment to certain items
- Feeling anxious when people suggest they throw some of their things away
- Decision making regarding what to keep and what to let go of might be highly difficult
- Relationships might struggle or become strained
- Mental health might struggle to different levels
- Limited living space and health and safety issues
Hoarding can affect an individual in their physical, mental and social wellbeing. Sleep might be affected. This in turn can have an effect on work life, and how we respond to every day challenges.
A cluttered space leads to a cluttered mind. It might be difficult to think or make decisions when our environment is messy, to say the least. Our support system might dwindle out as we respond negatively to our loved one’s attempts to help us contain our hoarding activities.
We might be unable to access services due to being trapped in our own home, or feeling so much shame that it keeps us from doing anything.
Also, we might not see our hoarding as a problem, and therefore are ‘happy’ to continue as we are. Or it might be such a big issue that we give up even trying to get any help.
Some of the above are causes and consequences of hoarding. All of these show up differently in everyone, which is why it’s important to treat each case individually.
Cause and consequences
- Difficult feelings
- Being a perfectionist and worrying a lot
- Childhood experience
- Trauma and loss
- Family history or habits
- Other mental health problems such as depression or anxiety.
Losing someone to illness, accident or sudden death might lead to an individual feeling fear of losing anyone or anything else in such a way again. They might accumulate possessions that used to belong to their lost loved one, or they might buy things that remind them of that person.
It is much more complex than this, of course. The support needs to be practical and psychological, and led by the client, at their pace, for it to have a long-lasting effect.
Dealing with the hoarder as an individual, with particular reasons for hoarding, is important. As the work goes on, these reasons will become clear(er) and we can tackle them as they appear.
Karin Brauner is a bilingual counsellor in private practice, working online as a counsellor, supervisor, marketing and self-care coach.
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