If you’ve ever clicked through the channels when you were bored on a Saturday afternoon, you likely landed on the show Hoarding: Buried Alive on TLC. This documentary-style series follows the journey of different hoarders as they work with their families and loved ones to clean out their overwhelmingly cluttered and dirty homes.
And, if you’re anything like me, you likely had one reaction when watching the show for the first time: “Ewwww, why do these people keep all of this stuff?!” But, it’s important to realize that hoarding is an actual disorder—much like anxiety and depression. For hoarders, discarding things (even if we see them as trash) causes a severe level of anxiety and distress. They’re attached to every single one of their belongings.
So, it’s not just that they’re dirty people, packrats, or bad housekeepers. Oftentimes, their hoarding is far beyond their control. Curious about what other things you might not know about hoarding? Here are six other facts.
1. Hoarding is its own disorder.
Hoarding used to be considered a form of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder—after all, hoarders have a compulsion to keep things. But, in 2013, it became a completely separate disorder. These two conditions were separated, as researchers pointed out some pretty important differences between the two. Mainly, OCD involves unpleasant feelings like anxiety. However, hoarding involves quite a bit of joy for hoarders. They get a real thrill from finding (and keeping) something new. So, hoarding was established as its own distinct disorder.
2. People who hoard are often embarrassed.
While there are a few people that are extremely proud of their piles of stuff, most hoarders are profoundly embarrassed by the condition of their home. As you see on Hoarders a lot, oftentimes the television show is the first time many of the loved ones have been inside the hoarder’s home in years. They simply haven’t been allowed in.
3. Over one third of hoarders also have ADHD.
There are some definite parallels between hoarding and ADHD, such as indecisiveness, prioritizing, and paying attention. So, it comes as no surprise that a large portion of hoarders have also been diagnosed with ADHD.
4. There is a distinct difference between hoarding and collecting.
While you might jokingly refer to an avid collector as a “hoarder”, there’s actually a big difference between collecting and hoarding. Collectors are proud of their items, take great care of them, and put a great deal of effort into adequately showcasing them. In contrast, hoarders tend to accumulate things, and just let them pile up. They don’t take pride in curating and caring for these items, they just like knowing that they have them.
5. Old papers aren’t considered trash to hoarders.
You may see a stack of old papers and think of it as a pile of trash. But, to hoarders, that pile contains loads of valuable information. Hoarders don’t frequently hold on to paper clutter just for the physical paper. They’re more attached to the information that’s printed on it. Even if they don’t frequently read or reference that information, knowing that they have it at their disposal provides a great sense of comfort.
6. Trauma can be a hoarding trigger.
Oftentimes people who hoard started doing so following a traumatic event, such as the death of a loved one or a divorce. People might turn to hoarding if they don’t visit a professional to have their depression or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder appropriately handled.
When you take the time to do some research and learn a little more about hoarders, it becomes obvious that the disorder isn’t as black and white as you might think. While you’ve likely thought to yourself, “Why don’t they just throw all of that stuff out?!” during an episode of Hoarders, now you know it’s not quite that simple. The issue is much more deep-seated than that, and it will take a lot more than a dumpster and a vacuum to be truly resolved.
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