We’ve all seen images of hoarded homes on TV or heard stories of city officials evicting residents from their property because they’ve allowed too much junk to accumulate. It may be easy to dismiss hoarding behavior as pure laziness; people should know better than to allow their lives to be taken over by possessions, much of which is no more than junk. Yet to do so dismisses the possibility that such behavior may be beyond a person’s ability to control.
For the longest time, those who hoarded were classified as people who chose to live on the fringes of society, using their overgrown collections to keep people away. What wasn’t understood was the possible psychological cause behind such behavior. Now, it has been discovered that many of those who hoard also display the classic symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).
What is OCD?
OCD is an anxiety disorder that is estimated to affect 1 in 40 adults, and 1 in 100 children have this condition. As the name implies, those who suffer from OCD have issues in dealing with both obsession and compulsions, which are defined as follows:
• Obsessions: Thoughts, images, or impulses that can cause anxiety or stress.
• Compulsions: Deliberate behaviors aimed at controlling one’s anxieties.
Many who suffer from OCD will repeat tasks over and over long after the objective is done. The repetition, which should be a comfort as a comfort to them, in many cases, has the opposite effect: it serves to convince them of the futility of their pursuit, causing them to experience depression. They then feel as though the only way to solve that depression is to keep repeating the task to excess.
Why OCD Can Cause Hoarding
In the case of hoarding, the hoarder feels as though their depression can only be solved through the accumulation of more “stuff.” That “stuff” can include:
Or any number of items that many would term trash – newspapers,boxes, milk cartons, even recycling.
Yet, the more “stuff” a hoarder collects, the further away he or she feels from receiving comfort. Thus, the collecting goes into overdrive, reaching a point where the “stuff” fills all corners of their homes and lives, making it almost impossible to function.
In other cases, hoarders obsess over losing items, needing them in the future or have plans to use the item for another purpose, and thus choose to never discard them. In such cases, these people are often found to be living in trash piles. In these cases, hoarders may fight to keep their treasures from being thrown out.
How to Help a Hoarder
Hoarding is no laughing matter, and hoarders should not be subjected to mocking and ridicule. In many of the hoarding cleanup cases we’ve assisted with, a gentle hand extended in caring and friendship is all that’s needed to help hoarders move on with their lives and begin recovery. Bio-One even has clients that we help on a regular basis to help maintain their reclaimed homes.
Learn more about how Bio-One and Raleigh Hoarding can assist you or a family member who is struggling with hoarding by visiting our Hoarding Services webpage.
Karen & Rick Jacobs are the owners of Bio-One Raleigh and Raleigh Hoarding. We offer trauma, mold and hoarding cleanup services including biohazard, blood cleanup, suicide/homicide, feces & bodily fluid, animal waste, undiscovered death, and mold testing & remediation.
We proudly serve North Carolina’s Triangle and surrounding areas including Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, Cary, Apex, Pittsboro, Holly Springs, Clayton, Carrboro, Fuquay-Varina, Garner, Hillsborough, Mebane, Morrisville, Wake Forest, and Wendell; as well as the following counties; Wake County, Durham County, Cumberland County, Guilford County, Orange County, Chatham County, Harnett County, Johnston County, Nash County, Franklin County and Pill County. We also provide services to Greensboro and other areas throughout North Carolina.
Bio-One Inc. is the world's first crime scene cleaning franchise. Nationally respected and locally owned, Bio-One has earned its reputation through being trusted to handle the Mandalay Bay mass shooting in Las Vegas in 2017, the Pulse nightclub shooting in Florida in 2016, and consulted on the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in 2012. In 2019, Bio-One was once again included in the best and most comprehensive franchise ranking list – Entrepreneur Magazine