Disorganization and clutter are not necessarily precursors to hoarding but they are part of the warning signs. The key difference is why disorganization and clutter are happening. There are many reasons someone would be unkempt or disorganized. It could mean they are:
Any of these issues can be managed and the clutter disbursed, and organization completed. What happens when an environment morphs from mild clutter to hoarding? Is there a progression?
Hoarding generally begins at a younger age. The symptoms may appear so mild that they aren’t noticed. An accumulation of items and a reluctance to part with non-essentials like empty food container, newspapers, and trash may not seem initially concerning, but over time the pattern escalates and living spaces become cramped.
Once the pattern of being messy or unwilling to throw things away morphs into hoarding, people move from being unwilling to unable to stop their behaviors. They resist changing or stopping the behavior by rationalizing.
Some of the signs of hoarding include, but aren’t limited to:
As the disorder becomes more pronounced, relationships begin to suffer and safety becomes an issue. Full blown hoarding symptoms may look like this:
Homes that are filled with clutter are at risk for becoming unsafe and pets and family are also at risk. Some hoarding includes hoarding pets, which magnifies the safety issues.
People often experience hoarding behaviors in connection with issues like depression or anxiety. Oftentimes people do not seek help with hoarding but are willing to seek help for their mental health. A doctor can help diagnose and treat each of the issues at hand. Treatment can be difficult due to reluctance to give up possessions and an urge to replace them once gone.
If you or someone you love is experiencing symptoms of hoarding, early intervention is valuable. Being able to address the behavior and get a treatment plan early makes a big difference in the outcomes. There is help and hoarding can be managed with the right tools.