It may not be difficult to imagine the life of an individual with hoarding disorder – an existence surrounded by piles of stuff that will never be used, living amongst tons of impractical items. Moreover, the individual experiences high levels of loneliness and sadness, and often faces the judgement and misunderstanding from those around him/her/them. Hoarding disorder is a mental illness in which the individual accumulates – in a compulsive manner – many items without disposing of any. The items hoarded could have a pattern/theme such as books, clothes, antiques, collector’s items, animals, just to name a few. The individual’s home is usually very disorganized and lacks the minimal hygienic safety standards – which could lead to dangerous situations, such as fires and infections. This may also jeopardize the individual’s financial security, since he/she/them will prioritize the acquisition of desired items over paying bills, etc.
Most individuals with this disorder do not perceive themselves as having a problem, which is why it is rare for them to seek help if their own volition. Usually it is their relatives, or those around them (i.e. a landlord making a complain to the fire department) who make the individual aware of the disorder. Commonly, the person with the hoarding disorder does not understand that his/her/their refusal to get rid of items is affecting his/her/thier life adversely. In fact, said individual is far more distressed by disposing of something, than to lessen the accumulation, it’s a question of “saving.” Simplistically speaking, the crux of the challenge is that getting rid of items provokes such high distress for that individual that he/she/they would rather firmly refuse to give up the items – sometimes despite severe negative consequences – all in order to avoid experiencing the intense distress.