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Extreme Hoarding: What Are The Risks?



There are a number of different types of hoarding, not only of apparently random objects but the hoarding of food, rubbish, clothes, and even animals. For some, being a shopaholic or a collector could mean you have the early stages of compulsive hoarding.

What is hoarding?

Obsessive or compulsive hoarding is when a person collects items with little or no value and is then not able to throw anything away, resulting in uncontrollable amounts of clutter. The disorder is associated with stress, depression, anxiety, and is usually linked with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). It often means decision-making is very difficult, resulting in the overload of items in a home.

What are the risks?

With such a high-risk activity, many people become trapped in just one room or are trapped in their homes with narrow and almost non-existent walkways between rooms. With the high clutter and electric plugs that are switched on all of the time, such as televisions or fridge freezers, there is a risk of fire, particularly with so much stuff to feed the flames. Another way fires can start could be through leaving the oven, grill, or hob on, smoking and not extinguishing cigarettes fully, or using a microwave with items covering it.

The obvious way to prevent fires causing too much damage would be to have a fire extinguisher on hand. This may be difficult though as an extinguisher will blend in with the rest of the clutter in the rooms and will be buried under a layer of other items, making it inaccessible.

In addition to the inability to move around the home or move any of the items that are stored and stacked up in the rooms, the person living in the house could become ill due to stale air circulating the rooms or rodents and insects making their nests under the stacks of hoarded items.

Other downsides to hoarding include the loss of family and friends due to them not wanting to come to your home, and you not wanting to leave because of feelings of anxiety.

How is it treated?

Hoarders are not alone, though. There are different ways to treat compulsive hoarding. One is with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), so long as the person can leave the house without becoming distressed or worried about what is going to happen to their belongings or themselves outside of the house. Regular therapy will make you change the way you think about material objects and can make you change your mind on wanting to keep all of the clutter you have stored.