Hoarding Disorder: Symptoms, Causes and How Online Therapy Can Help | 50+ Success Cases
Vivek is a 35 years old man living in Lower Parel, Mumbai. He stays alone in a 2BHK apartment after his mother passed away in 2019. Vivek approached Holistic Living with a pressing query.
He said, “I have a hard time throwing away things. I feel they hold a lot of value to me so I keep them even when I don’t need them. My rooms are filled with things. It is really depressing but I just can’t seem to let go. The thought of throwing them away physically hurts me. Do I have a problem? Should I get professional help?’
The expert counselor at Holistic Living asked Vivek to book a session for online therapy with an experienced therapist who will conduct a proper assessment to understand his concerns. Vivek connected with the therapist via online video platforms to discuss this strange issue.
The therapist assessed Vivek’s concerns and suspected that he could be experiencing hoarding disorder. When the therapist explained to Vivek about his diagnosis he was stunned and concerned. However, the therapist assured him that it is possible to manage the symptoms and regulate the chronic habit of hoarding everything.
Before, we see how online therapy helped Vivek overcome his issue, let us understand what exactly is hoarding disorder. In this article, you will learn about the symptoms of hoarding disorder, its causes, and therapies that have been proven to resolve hoarding disorder.
What Is Hoarding Disorder?
Hoarding Disorder is a mental health condition in which the person finds it difficult to discard possessions or things even when they hold no value or have no need for them due to a perceived need to save them, a fear of losing them, or a strong attachment to them. This leads to the accumulation of clutter that interferes with the normal use of living spaces, causes significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other areas of functioning, and poses health and safety risks.
What are the Signs of Hoarding Disorder?
Here are some signs that may indicate hoarding disorder:
- Cluttered living spaces, such as rooms, hallways, or entrances that are blocked by clutter or debris, making it difficult or impossible to use the space as intended.
- Difficulty discarding items, such as clothing, containers, papers, books, or household items, that are no longer needed, have no apparent value or are broken or unusable.
- Strong attachment to possessions, such as feeling distressed or anxious when attempting to discard or part with possessions, and a reluctance to allow others to touch or handle them.
- Avoidance of decision-making related to possessions, such as procrastination, indecisiveness, or perfectionism, which can lead to a buildup of clutter and disorganization.
- Emotional distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other areas of functioning, such as depression, anxiety, isolation, or conflict with others, due to hoarding behaviors.
- Health and safety hazards, such as fire hazards, tripping hazards, and unsanitary living conditions, that pose a risk to the hoarder and others living in or visiting the space.
It’s important to note that everyone may have some clutter in their living spaces from time to time, but the presence of these signs in a persistent and severe manner may indicate the presence of hoarding disorder. A mental health professional can help diagnose and treat hoarding disorder.
The exact causes of hoarding disorder are not fully understood, but research suggests that a combination of genetic, environmental, and cognitive factors may contribute to its development. Here are some potential causes of hoarding disorder:
- Genetics: Studies have found that hoarding disorder can run in families, suggesting that there may be a genetic component to the disorder.
- Brain differences: Brain imaging studies have shown that people with hoarding disorder have differences in brain activity and structure compared to people without the disorder. These differences may affect decision-making, emotions, and memory.
- Life events: Traumatic or stressful life events, such as a loss or a major change, may trigger hoarding behavior in some people.
- Emotional attachment: People with hoarding disorder may attach emotional significance to their possessions, and have difficulty letting them go due to sentimental value or the belief that the items have inherent value.
- Cognitive factors: People with hoarding disorder may have cognitive biases or difficulties with decision-making, leading them to attach greater importance to possessions and find it challenging to discard them.
- Environmental factors: Growing up in an environment where hoarding behavior was modeled or encouraged may also increase the risk of developing hoarding disorder.
It’s important to note that hoarding disorder is a complex condition, and the causes may vary from person to person. Treatment for hoarding disorder typically involves a combination of therapy, medication, and support to help individuals manage their symptoms, reduce clutter, improve functioning, and prevent relapse.
Therapies That Can Help To Overcome Disorder…
There are several therapies that can help individuals overcome hoarding disorder, depending on their specific needs and preferences. Here are some common therapies for hoarding disorder:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT is a type of therapy that helps individuals identify and challenge negative thoughts and beliefs related to their hoarding behavior. It also helps individuals develop practical skills for reducing clutter, improving decision-making, and managing emotions.
- Exposure and response prevention (ERP): ERP is a type of therapy commonly used for anxiety disorders, including hoarding disorders. It involves gradually exposing individuals to situations that trigger their hoarding behavior and teaching them alternative responses that reduce the urge to hoard.
- Motivational interviewing: This type of therapy is focused on building motivation and confidence to make changes in behavior. It involves exploring an individual’s values, goals, and concerns related to hoarding behavior, and working collaboratively to identify steps towards change.
- Support groups: Joining a support group can provide individuals with a sense of community and understanding, as well as practical tips and advice for managing their hoarding behavior.
- Family therapy: Hoarding disorder can affect not only the individual with the disorder but also their family members. Family therapy can help improve communication, understanding, and support among family members and provide them with tools to cope with the disorder.
It’s important to note that hoarding disorder is a complex condition that requires tailored treatment approaches based on individual needs and preferences. Taking online therapy or in-person counselling can provide you with the right support and treatment you require to resolve compulsive actions.
In Vivek’s case, the expert therapist used a combination of CBT techniques and exposure therapy to encourage Vivek to challenge his thoughts and reduce the anxiety that came from discarding his possessions. It was a gradual process, but he learned how to have better control over his emotions and could let go of many things that he had stored for the longest time.
“I am not gonna lie. It was difficult as hell. It was like physically removing your body part or something. The constant support of my therapist helped me to overcome hoarding disorder. My house looks bigger now lol…Decluttering my rooms has even relieved my anxiety and overthinking. I can’t explain how but I feel like a better person” says Vivek.
Hoarding Disorder brings a lot of other concerns along with it. The inability to discard unnecessary things can give rise to anxiety, depression, and chronic stress. It can even cause health concerns and be harmful for your standard of living.
Therefore, if you could relate to Vivek’s story and the symptoms mentioned in the article then we urge you to seek professional help and understand yourself better. You can also opt for 10-minute Free consultation with an expert counsellor who can guide you to take the best decision.