Hoarding is more than just the topic of shocking reality TV shows. In fact, Hoarding Disorder is a recognized mental health and behavioral condition where the individual has persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions because of a perceived value or a compulsory need to save them. An individual with hoarding disorder will often experience distress at the thought of getting rid of these collected items regardless of their actual value.
Left unchecked hoarding disorder often leads to very cramped living conditions where the individual’s home can be filled to capacity. The only remaining available space might only be narrow pathways winding through stacks of clutter.
Countertops, sinks, stoves, desks, stairways, and most other surfaces are typically laden with low-value collected items. Most unchecked cases of hoarding disorder end up with no more room inside the home. So, the array of clutter then spread to the garage, vehicles, yard, and sometimes even other storage facilities.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that the term “Hoarding” is loosely used by many laymen to describe a variety of circumstances and situations. Though you might be surprised to hear that there are actually several official types of hoarding behavior, that are defined by mental health professionals and behaviorists.
Getting a better understanding of the subtypes of hoarding disorder, their overt symptoms, and some of the underlying behaviors that drive them can help you understand if you need help with your hoarding issue. Even if you don’t have a hoarding issue, it can help you better understand how to intervene and help the individual to adjust their behavior in a healthier manner. Then you can get underway to hiring a hoarding cleanup company to help you properly dispose of the built up refuse.
The Subtypes of Hoarding Disorder
Generally, the subtypes of hoarding disorder are broken down by the type of objects being compulsively collected or their basic material. Though in some cases the hoarding disorder is linked to specific activities, and the materials collected are merely an aftereffect of the conditioned behavior.
Most mental health professionals define the subtypes of hoarding disorder as:
- Garbage and trash
Understanding Shopping and Hoarding
It might surprise you to hear that chronic shoppers are sometimes considered hoarders due to their shopping habits. Individuals suffering from this type of hoarding typically shop excessively. They often feel that collecting items provides them with a sense similar to an adrenaline rush. Later they often refuse to discard their purchased items under distress that they’ll need them. This behavior continues despite their attempts to stop it.
Food Hoarding behavior often occurs in combination with other mental health issues such as eating disorders. Many people with this subtype of hoarding disorder will even have stolen or hidden food. This often leads to other behaviors such as secretive night eating, or binge eating during the day.
Many times individuals with the food hoarding subtype will also have food in areas other than the kitchen. It’s also worth bearing in mind that the food hoarding subtype is one of the most dangerous as the accumulated food can attract pests and potentially spoil.
The Garbage and Trash Hoarding Disorder
The Garbage and Trash subtype of hoarding disorder is often classified as “Diogenes Syndrome” This is a condition that arises from self-neglect issues later in life. Though in some severe cases the individual actively feels that the collected garbage is highly valuable.
The reasoning behind Diogenes Syndrome is astoundingly complex, especially since the value someone places on the junk to the point that it leads to hyper-anxiety levels to disorganized obsessions. Though the general assumption is that trash hoarding is linked to the individuals having difficulty assigning proper value to the item in question.
Individuals with the paper hoarding subtype typically have an impulsive tendency to quietly collect clutter made from paper, this includes things like magazines, newspapers, and mail. Though it is different from other types of hoarding such as the pandemic hoarding of toilet paper.
Many times individuals with paper hoarding behaviors will also have pests living in their collection such as insects, and even rodents. This adds to the health concerns, as the infestation grows.
The Animal Hoarding Subtype
There is an interesting distinction between someone who is an “Animal Lover” and someone who is struggling with Animal Hoarding. Since many cities and states have regulations about the number of animals and individuals of one kind, a lot of animal hoarders will diversify.
Once they reach the maximum level of two dogs and two cats for their municipal code, they will break out into collecting birds, hamsters, gerbils, and reptiles that might not have such strictly defined limitations.
Though there are certainly some people with the animal hoarding subtype that will completely disregard pet regulations. This can often lead to a scenario where the local animal control has to step in, to remove pets from the home. Especially if they are not receiving adequate care.
Of course, pet hoarding also leads to another dangerous type of hoarding. Often times an unmanageable number of pets leads to uncontrolled pet urine, feces, and other biohazards. These situations attract harmful pathogens, bacteria, and even the potential for serious diseases.
When the pets are removed from the home the individual with the animal hoarding subtype will often experience severe emotional distress, which can complicate effective treatment strategies later.
Many cases of animal hoarding are linked to the individual suffering from depression, anxiety, or some type of complex emotional trauma. They often feel that having pet companions provides them with physical and emotional comfort. Yet they continue to harbor a much deeper issue.
The Effects of Pandemic Hoarding
The early days of the COVID-19 pandemic served as an excuse for many individuals with Hoarding Disorder to amass an enormous collection. For many mass panic purchases made during the public health crisis created a domino effect, that was ultimately temporary. Yet many individuals later found that they couldn’t bring themselves to discard these items without severe psychological distress.
At the same time, social distancing and self-isolation protocols often allowed pandemic hoarders to continue the behavior unchecked. Many people who started the pandemic with only mild hoarding disorder tendencies have experienced an escalation in their behavior that may persist to this day.