Therapy for Hoarders and What studies have shown

Everyone can benefit from therapy and mental health resources. We at Spaulding Decon, encounter traumatic scenes daily. Whether it is a suicide, crime scene or hoard, we are cognizant that these scenes can leave a lasting impression and at times PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) as studied by the Mayo Clinic

 

Mental Health and Hoarding

Our clients too, are dealing with conditions that could benefit from therapy or mental health assistance. Many of them struggle with hoarding. Hoarding is a compulsive behavior resulting in difficulty discarding or letting go of personal items. People become emotionally attached to their belongings and struggle to part with them, often leading them to live in unmanageable conditions. 

According to the ADAA, hoarding usually has emotional, physical, social, financial and even legal effects.

 

Symptoms of Hoarding: 

  • Inability to discard personal items 
  • Experiencing severe anxiety when asked to discard items 
  • A feeling of being overwhelmed when having to organize items 
  • Feeling indecisive and struggling with determining what to keep and let go of 
  • Being overwhelmed or embarrassed by the number of possessions they are keeping 
  • Fear of others touching their things or trying to convince them to depart with their items 
  • Obsessive thoughts or fear of running out of items  
  • Loss of functionality due to lack of living space, becoming isolated with hopes of hiding the condition or embarrassment over the condition of their living space, financial hardship, and even health hazards.  

 

Why Do People Hoard?

As shown by recent conversations involving homeowners that deal with Hoarding Disorder, people hoard because they believe an item will be useful or valuable in the future. Hoarders feel those certain items hold sentimental value as well and fear if they depart from these items, they will never be able to replace them. 

Hoarding is associating with mental illness as it is closely associated with OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, OCPD (Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder), (ADHD) attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) as well as Depression.

 

What is OCD? Obsessive Compulsive Disorder? 

OCD is a condition in which the person becomes obsessed or consumed by thoughts and fears of something. This disorder begins gradually and slowly progresses until it consumes the person struggling with it. These thoughts are unwanted, recurring and they make the person feel driven to perform an action continuously.   

The American Psychiatric Association has mentioned that the avoidance of these behaviors commonly cause distress. See examples of OCD behaviors: 

  • compulsive hand washing, teeth brushing, showering due to fear of germ contamination, organizing things in a certain order or perhaps symmetrically  
  • cleaning the home compulsively 
  • frequent uncomfortable thoughts 
  • fear of blurting out insults,  
  • recurrent thoughts of numeric patterns, words, or sounds 
  • the act of repeatedly checking door locks, appliances or flipping switches in a certain pattern 
  • the fear of departing from items that feel as though they have a significant value  

 

What is OCPD?

Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder may seem like OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) they are not the same. While both conditions can create distress, fear and have thought patters that are consuming to the individual resulting them to act, in order to alleviate the anxiety. OCPD is defined by the need for perfectionism and control.  

Most people with OCD are self-aware and conscientious of their symptoms and behaviors while people with OCPD are typically not.  

Both conditions are treated with psychotherapy (the practice of using methods such as regular counseling or the use of methods clinically proven to help a person diagnosed with a mental disorder to understand the root of the issue and learn ways to cope with their disorder). OCD, however, tends to have a better prognosis than OCPD. 

 

What is ADHD?

ADHD or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder is a chronic disorder that affects attention and has a hyperactive or impulsive component to it. ADHD typically starts during childhood and stays with you for the duration of your life.   

New research has found that people with ADHD are significantly more likely to exhibit hoarding behaviors, which can greatly affect the person’s quality of life.  

 

What is Depression?

Depression is a condition which affects a person’s mood. There are different types of depression. Depression is characterized by the following characteristics: 

  1. gloomy mood or lack of interest in things the person was interested in before 
  2. a lack of concentration or inability to focus 
  3. a loss or change in sleep or appetite 
  4. deep feelings of sorrow, hopelessness, worthlessness, and sometimes suicidal thoughts 


Depression is quite common. ADAA also states that anxiety disorders are affecting 40 million adults in the US ages 18 and older. People with hoarding issues typically suffer from depression or anxiety as well. 
 

 

How can therapy help people struggling with hoarding?

Therapy is the practice of being evaluated or treated by a medical professional with hopes of resolving concerning behaviors, feelings, issues that create stress or different sensations in the body. Therapy is performed or done with a mental health professional who will use different methods of therapy to help you find the underlying reason why you are experiencing symptoms. Therapists will often listen to your concerns, explore your past, teach you new skills, give you homework tasks which are meant to help you process your thoughts in a new way, help you achieve your goals. 

We spoke with Theresa Ellis, LCSW and asked her thoughts on the subject matter, She shared that “most human behavior is a result of what a person feels, and in our culture, often we aren’t encouraged to pay much attention to our internal emotional environment, nor are we educated about it. Established patterns from childhood on, create an emotional environment in us that we work to keep in balance, in other words, cope.  

Most people exhibiting hoarder behavior are hoarding as a coping mechanism. It is a symptom of something else.  It isn’t about intelligence, or knowledge about how to keep order.  It’s an attempt to alleviate some sort of emotional discomfort, even though in reality it creates more, magnifying the very feelings the hoarder is wanting to avoid. Therapy is about discovering the reasons for your discomfort.

Hoarding is a symptom of your discomfort – it feels safer than risking “letting go”. Once therapeutic work has been done assisting in letting go of emotional stuff, it’s possible to learn the ‘how’ of letting go of the real stuff.”

 

Getting over Hoarding Habits

Therapy can be expensive if your insurance does not cover it. Many people pay out of pocket for therapy. Therapy can cost between $65 to $250 or more per hour or session. Betterhelp is a great platform for therapy as it has a multitude of therapists that are on standby at all hours of the day, available to help you if you need to speak to someone and they are available virtually, which is convenient and effective.  

Hoarding is an action that helps people struggling with certain emotional issues divert their anxiety towards holding on to personal items. This behavior is a coping mechanism, the problem is that the behavior itself creates other issues for the hoarder. They can create an environment for themselves that is not sanitary, safe or comfortable. 

It is easy to lose yourself in the chaos but luckily counseling helps. Having a therapist to help you navigate your emotions, identify your discomfort and heal is key to dominating this behavior and finding healthier coping mechanisms for their anxiety and other mental health conditions.  There are many resources to help hoarders get help. Spaulding Decon is a company that helps you clean up your clutter, however they strongly recommend working with a mental health specialist in order to put an end to the behavior once and for all. 

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