Hoarding: 5 Health Consequences

 

Hoarding — filling a living space with unused items to the point that that space is unusable — is now a well-known condition thanks to pop culture and TV shows like “Hoarders.” Usually, excessive hoarding is indicative of a larger problem.

 

 

It’s often considered a subtype of obsessive-compulsive disorder, but could also be a red flag for other issues. Here are some facts about how hoarding is related to larger health issues, including possible causes of hoarding and its consequences.

 

1. Emotional trauma:

Often, hoarders save items that they think may be useful in the future. In other instances, hoarders are holding on to items with emotional significance, which is often an indicator of deeper problems, like depression.

 

2. Sanitation:

Hoarding makes it incredibly difficult to keep a living space clean and dust-free. Hoarding may increase allergens in the home or even help pests invade. Some hoarders engage in animal hoarding, which is certainly not sanitary: the more animals in a crowded space, the harder it is to keep clean and safe for humans and animals.

 

3. Chronic pain:

Some people become hoarders because cleaning and organizing is simply too difficult. Arthritis and chronic pain can cause people who are used to living independently to keep items when they’re no longer able to sort through them and throw them out.

 

4. Anxiety:

Hoarders hold on to things because they think everything could have a use down the road, and if they no longer have that item, they’ll be caught unprepared. Symptoms of anxiety go hand-in-hand with anxiety; shows like “Hoarders” often exhibit people who are inexplicably anxious when their belongings, which would appear useless to most people, are moved.

 

5. Risk of fire:

When items are kept together in close quarters, especially stacked papers and magazines, the risk of fire increases. Blocked exits and narrow pathways through the home make escaping a fire difficult.

 

If you have an elderly relative who has trouble staying organized due to chronic pain, consider helping them clear their living space a bit by renting a storage unit. They’ll continue to live independently, but a less cluttered space will help them stay more organized with less effort. Extra storage isn’t recommended for psychological hoarders: it just gives them more space to store in.

 

If you think you or someone you know is hoarding, contact a doctor and ask about anxiety and depression.

 


 

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