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How Do We Convince Someone Who is Hoarding to Get Help?

February 23, 2017


Hoarding is a serious mental illness and the severity of it is many times underestimated. Convincing someone who is a hoarder is a difficult task and is not to be taken lightly. Hoarding affects the standard of living for not only the hoarder but for their family involved. It affects how they live, where they are able to live, their social life, their hygiene and so much more. If someone you know is hoarding, the first step to their rehabilitation is helping them understand that they need help. It is a process that involves much time, patience and understanding. You must be cautious with how you go about convincing someone who is hoarding to get help.

Hoarding can start at an early age, as early as adolescence. Sometime it will manifest then and the compulsive need for items will stay dormant until middle age. In other cases, hoarding is caused by trauma, which can include a death, or loss of someone. Either way, hoarding has a deep psychological connection to the hoarder. They are not hoarding items “just because” they hoard items because they have some significant sentimental value to their lives and cannot part with them. If anyone goes into a hoarder’s home and just attempts to discard items, they will create distrust between themselves and the hoarder. Even if you are close family: a son or daughter – no one, but the hoarder is able to reach out for help and begin the process.

According to Dr. Cristina Sorrentino of Boston University School of Social Work. there are two commonly used means to convince someone who is hoarding to get help: enforcement and support. Enforcement focuses on helping the hoarding truly see the situation they are in. Help them understand the conditions they are living in are not conducive to healthy living and that they would lead to a negative outcome if they are not dealt with. Help the hoarding realize that if they do not fix the conditions they’re living in by seeking help they could lose their home, the health inspector may condemn the house, or social services may need to get involved. This is a tough love approach which aims to help them see the severity of the situation and motivate them to fix it, but if the hoarder fails to fix it, they enforce the consequences.

The second way to help convince someone they need help is by offering them support. In this situation, the hoarder may already understand that they are not living in a good situation, and you want to provide support to them in order to help them avoid a negative outcome. This way, the hoarder understands the situation and what must be done, but if they fail, it is not up to you to enforce the consequence. You take a softer approach to convincing them to seek help.

Both these ways of convincing a hoarder to seek help can be tough. While the approaches differ, your care will stay constant. Be sure to reserve judgment, and be compassionate to the hoarder, this is a tough situation for them too.