Many of us have a collection in one form or another. Perhaps we buy snow globes or refrigerator magnets as souvenirs whenever we go on a trip. Maybe you collect jewelry or other items from a specific time period. You might have binders filled with years of baseball cards, or boxes with bagged and boarded comic books. But while compulsive hoarding may seem similar at first blush, it is a different animal than simply having a collection or two that have gotten out of control.
The signs of hoarding include:
- Accumulating items endlessly at home, even when there is little to no space
- Saving junk mail, receipts, packaging, and obsolete or useless items
- Compulsive shopping, sometimes purchasing multiples of the same item
- Leaving items unopened
- Difficulty and mental discomfort in choosing which items to keep and which to discard
- Having trouble reaching necessary items or navigating around clutter
The level of hoarding may reach a point where the house or apartment is so filled with stuff that it becomes unsanitary or dangerous. The occupants may be unable to safely reach their kitchen or bathroom or other necessary rooms in the house. This can cause conditions to become squalid and unsanitary, and create an increased risk of falls and other injuries.
Many cities, counties, and states offer hoarding task forces, but the agency may order a forcible cleanup which can cause distress to the hoarder and simply be a temporary solution. For most people experiencing an issue with hoarding, progress is difficult without the assistance of a therapist or counselor to help them in understanding their underlying causes.