Hoarding is not just something someone decides to do as a hobby. It is a serious matter. Originally thought to be a branch of OCD since 2013 hoarding has been classified as its own mental disorder. IN the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Disorders (DSM-V) defined hoarders as a person who, “excessively save items that others may view as worthless. They have persistent difficulty getting rid of or parting with possessions, leading to clutter that disrupts their ability to use their living or work spaces,” and says it occurs in about 4% of the population.

Hoarding can be a complicated disorder to understand. To the family, all these items may just appear to be junk, and they might ask themselves why someone would choose to live this way. Or why is there is so much clutter or trash? The hoarding may be harming your relationship with the said person and you wonder why someone in your family would choose these objects that are seemingly meaningless over the rest of the family. The answer is they aren’t. To the person who is hoarding, these items mean everything to. In some cases, the hoarder understands that the clutter and accumulation of items are putting strains on their relationship but cannot make the mental connection that it is a problem caused by hoarding.

As a family member, you have to understand that it is not a choice by the symptoms of a disease and is not a simple matter. It is important to understand what hoarding is and how it begins before you begin trying to tackle it. Each case is special, each person unique, and each case of hoarding is defined by the circumstances that foster it.

To understand why your family member is hoarding, you have to unravel the situation. When did the hoarding begin? Was there a traumatic event in the person’s life? Have they been hoarding since they were young? Was their mother, father, or close relative a hoarder as they grew up? All of these are risk factors that can lead to hoarding.

There is no cause and effect relationship for hoarding. There are many ways one may become a hoarder. Often, hoarding signs begin to appear in early adolescence and it can stay dormant until middle aged. A traumatic life event may occur that causes one to begin to fill the emotional void with items, and in other cases, people hoard due to social isolation and view the items they hoard as their social interaction. Sometimes it is a fear of being poor and hoarding gives them the feeling of security since they have so much, even if it has no real monetary value.

Compulsive hoarding can be caused by many of the factors talked about above, and is often in combination with those, a defense mechanism. Hoarders understand that they have all of the items, but do not see that there is a problem with the accumulation of items. When addressing your family member about the situation always remain calm, approach them in a manner of understanding, not resentment or anger. Using care and sensitivity is the proper way to start a conversation about their hoarding.

Hoarding is a mental disorder and is a problem because it affects the quality of life of the hoarder and their family. Now that you have a better understanding of what hoarding is and why your family member hoards it is important to seek help as soon as possible. There are many resources that are specifically made to help a hoarder. Visit Spaulding Decon online to learn more about hoarding and how you can get help.