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What Is Hoarding Disorder?

One of the very important aspects to consider is decluttering and cleaning your home before putting it on the market. Statistics show that homes that are clean and staged do not stay on the market very long compared to homes that are not. Getting a real estate professional to evaluate and suggest improvements are imperative to the success of selling your home.

Whether you are selling your own home or assisting a family member or friend in selling theirs, we do not always see our earthly possessions as others do. A real estate professional can give you an objective professional evaluation to ensure your home looks at its best in the eyes of potential buyers. Not everyone has a hoarding issue, but rather just needs a little help with the finer details of staging their home.

But sometimes there is a more serious issue and not all real estate professionals know exactly how to assist their clients in this area. Hoarding is a serious disorder with many underlying issues that need to be dealt with before rushing in and throwing someone's life possessions away as soon as possible just to get the deal sealed. I have done intensive research on the subject and would love to share this information with you. Let's take a closer look at this disorder...

People with hoarding disorder have persistent difficulty getting rid of or parting with possessions due to a perceived need to save the items. Attempts to part with possessions create considerable distress and lead to decisions to save them. The resulting clutter disrupts the ability to use living spaces (American Psychiatric Association, 2013).

As a transformational coach working with these situations I know that people with this disorder are dealing with intense feelings of fear and abandonment. Most have been unsupported by their families and friends and left to their own devices for years. Hoarding does not happen overnight. And it takes time to work through the emotional turmoil and learn to let go.

Hoarding is not the same as collecting. Collectors typically obtain possessions in an organized and intentional manner. Once gained, the items are removed from their day-to-day usage, organized, cleaned, admired with pride, and displayed for others to admire. People who hoard are impulsive, with little to no planning at all, and triggered by the sight of any object that could be theirs to own.

Hoarders have no consistent theme. It could be anything from a newspaper to animals and could vary from day to day. Collectors are intensely focused on a particular topic or object and in contrast to the organization and pride in displaying possessions seen in collecting, disorganized clutter is a sure sign of hoarding disorder.

This disorder affects people of all ages, but there are higher rates for people over 60 years old and people with other psychiatric diagnoses, especially anxiety and depression. Hoarding appears to be the same across countries and cultures and evidence suggests that hoarding occurs equally in men and women. Hoarding behavior can begin early in life and increase in severity with each new life season they enter.

Hoarding disorder causes problems in relationships, social and work activities, and other important areas of functioning. Potential consequences of serious hoarding include health and safety concerns, such as fire hazards, tripping hazards, and health code violations. It can also lead to family strain and conflicts, isolation and loneliness, unwillingness to have anyone else enter the home, and an inability to perform daily tasks, such as cooking and bathing in the home.

Diagnosing Hoarding Disorder

Specific symptoms for a hoarding diagnosis include (American Psychiatric Association, 2013):

Persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions, regardless of their actual value.

This difficulty is due to a perceived need to save the items and due to the distress associated with discarding them. The difficulty of discarding possessions results in the accumulation of possessions that congest and clutter active living areas and substantially compromise their intended use. If living areas are uncluttered, it is only because of the interventions of third parties (e.g., family members, cleaners, or the authorities).”

The hoarding causes major distress or problems in social, work, or other important areas of functions (including maintaining a safe environment for self and others).

An assessment for hoarding may include questions such as:

Do you have trouble parting with possessions (such as discarding, recycling, selling, or giving away)?

Because of the clutter or number of possessions, how difficult is it to use the rooms and surfaces in your home?

To what extent does your hoarding, saving, acquisition, and clutter affect your daily functioning?

How much do these symptoms interfere with school, work, or your social or family life?

How much distress do these symptoms cause you?

I am not a registered mental health professional in Virginia and even though I worked as a Psychotherapist for 11 years, I am not a practicing mental health professional. I offer my assistance as a transformational life coach and real estate professional. I may ask permission to speak with friends and family to help decide on how to refer them to a mental health professional with whom I will work side by side to reach the best possible outcome.

Some individuals with hoarding disorder may recognize and acknowledge that they have a problem with accumulating possessions; others may not see a problem.

Excessive acquisition occurs in the vast majority of cases and—although not a core diagnostic feature—should be carefully monitored. In addition to the core features of difficulty discarding and clutter, many people with hoarding disorder also have associated problems such as indecisiveness, perfectionism, procrastination, disorganization, and distractibility. These associated features can contribute greatly to their problems with functioning and the overall severity.

Animal hoarding may form a special type of hoarding disorder and involves an individual acquiring large numbers (dozens or even hundreds) of animals. The animals may be kept in an inappropriate space, potentially creating unhealthy, unsafe conditions for the animals. People who hoard animals typically show limited insight regarding the problem.

Many people with hoarding disorder also experience other mental disorders, including depression, anxiety disorders, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or alcohol use disorder. For this reason, it is extremely important to involve a qualified mental professional to evaluate, diagnose and treat them while I assist with uncluttering and organizing the home in a calm, considerate, respectful and peaceful manner that does not disturb the treatment they are receiving.

You are always welcome to contact me to find out if we are a good match to make your home selling process a huge success.


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