Hoarding

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About hoarding

Hoarding is estimated to affect 1.2 million people in the UK. Hoarding is having so many things in your home that you cannot manage the clutter where you live, and you find it impossible or difficult to throw things away.

Hoarding is a mental health problem that a doctor can diagnose. Sometimes you might also experience hoarding as part of another mental or physical health problem.

A person who has hoarding behaviour might:

  • Feel the need to get more things, even if you have a lot already
  • Have very strong positive feelings whenever you get more things
  • Feel very upset or anxious at the thought of throwing or giving things away because of their emotional attachment to them
  • Find it very hard to decide what to keep or get rid of
  • Find it hard to organise their things
  • Have so many things that they can’t use parts of the places they live in – like not sleeping in the bed or using the sink
  • Have lots of disagreements with the people close to them about their things
  • Find it hard to pack for trips away, like a holiday – they might pack many more things than they really need because they can’t decide what’s important

Sometimes a person who is hoarding doesn’t recognise that they are hoarding, or how it is impacting their lives. This can sometimes be called ‘clutter blindness’.

If you think you may be hoarding or know someone who is hoarding it is important to seek treatment and support.

If you are supporting someone close to you who is seeking help, remember to be patient. Don’t force someone to throw away their things, this is unlikely to help them change in the long term and could lead to them becoming withdrawn from support in the future. It is essential to seek professional help to find out the root cause of the hoarding behaviour.

Causes of hoarding

No one knows what causes hoarding; people will have different reasons for their own experiences. It is thought that it is a combination of these factors:

Difficult feelings – Hoarding can be related to difficult experiences and can be sometimes used to cope or distract from these feelings of being anxious, upset or afraid.

Perfectionism or Worrying – if you hoard things you might feel worried about making mistakes, which is also known as perfectionism. If you find it hard to make decisions, plan ahead or work out how to do tasks you may be more vulnerable to hoarding.

Childhood Experiences – Research has linked hoarding to childhood experiences of losing things, not owning things (living in poverty), or people not caring for you and experiencing emotional abuse or neglect. This might make you feel more connected to your belongings and hard for you to let them go or organise them.

Trauma and Loss – You may be able to link the start of your hoarding to a traumatic event or period in your life. This could be being abused, bullied or harassed, breaking up with a partner, experiencing physical health problems, bereavement, feeling lonely or isolated, or experiencing long periods of stress.

Family history or habits – It can be common for a person who has hoarding behaviour to have a family member who shares this behaviour. If you grew up around hoarding you might have learnt this habit or behaviour from a parent or sibling.

Treatment

When hoarding becomes a problem and a person seeks treatment it is essential to take things at their own pace and not put pressure on them to make changes faster than they want to. Removing the person’s things will only cause more distress and will not help the person in the long term.

A person with hoarding behaviour should visit their GP who may suggest talking therapies, such as cognitive behavioural therapy, to treat their hoarding behaviour. There are no specific medications for hoarding behaviours but a GP may prescribe medication to help with other problems the person is experiencing alongside their hoarding, for example, they may be offered antidepressants.

If the person affected is a Jigsaw Homes tenant, they can contact us for support. We take a person-centred approach to each individual person and we can provide hands-on practical help in their homes. We are non-judgmental and our main priorities are to create safe and healthy living environments for the person affected and empower them to make positive behavioural changes to their health and wellbeing.

Additional support

Other agencies that can offer support with hoarding are:

Hoarding UK  – Helpline: 020 3239 1600

Hoarding Disorders UK – Helpline: 0330 133 2310

Mind – Helpline: 0300 123 3393

Help for Hoarders – Helpline: 0203 239 1600

Rainbow Red – Helpline: 07931 303310

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