Hoarding- Compulsive behavior characterized by the excessive acquisition of objects and the extreme resistance to discarding any of the objects due to a perceived need to save them.
Those suffering from the compulsion become highly distressed at the mere thought of discarding any possessions. As a result, the relentless accumulation of possessions leads to a gravely cluttered home that renders parts of the home inaccessible and useless for the intended purposes. Compulsive hoarding ranges from mild to severe. In mild cases, the behavior has little to no impact on the sufferer’s day to day. However, in other, more serious cases, the behavior can seriously hinder the sufferer’s daily functioning, put a major strain on interpersonal relationships, and lead to alarming health and sanitation concerns.
Sufferers of the disorder are not always conscious of their problem. In some cases, the hoarder is fully aware of their irrational behavior and the problematic results of acting on their compulsions; however, the emotional attachment to their possessions far exceeds any motive to discard items. This is why hoarding cleanups need to completed by specially trained professionals. Professional hoarding cleanups are very emotionally traumatic for the hoarder. Cleanups need to be approached with a compassionate touch. Cleaning crews will be met with tremendous resistance from the hoarder, which is why it is advised that family and friends be present for the cleanup for added emotional support.
Signs and Symptoms
The research behind hoarding is relatively new. Hoarding was formally identified as mental disorder back in 2013 with publication of the DSM V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders).
- Persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions, regardless of the the actual value attributed to the items.
- This difficulty is due to strong urges to save items and/or distress associated with discarding.
- As a result, the accumulation of a large number of possessions fill up and clutter active living areas of the home or workplace to the extent that their intended use is no longer possible. If all living areas become decluttered, it is only because of the interventions of third parties (e.g., family members, cleaners, authorities).
- The hoarding causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning
- The hoarding symptoms are not due to a general medical condition
- The hoarding symptoms are not restricted to the symptoms of another mental disorder
Professional Hoarding Cleanup
Due to the sanitation and health risks involved in cleaning up after a hoarder, it is recommended that you hire a professional hoarding & biohazard cleanup company to complete the work. In many cases there may be biohazards, odors, pet feces, human feces and a whole host of other issues – many of which may be harmful to human health. Often times the property will need to be carefully disinfected to ensure safe future living conditions. A professional cleaning company that specializes in hoarding cleanup will have technicians who are trained to handle even the worst cleanup situations and will do so discretely and with compassion for the homeowner or family members.
Subsequent Problems to Hoarding
Mold Development: A hoarding property can be the ideal breeding ground for major mold growth that will require a professional mold remediation and removal.
- The excessive clutter greatly reduces airflow and ventilation throughout the home.
- Signs of mold growth becomes more and more difficult to identify as the possessions accumulate. If mold growth goes unnoticed and unaddressed, it will thrive.
- It also becomes increasingly difficult to assess for areas of water intrusion. For example, leaks can go unnoticed for extended periods of time. Unaddressed water intrusion will lead to extensive mold growth and can compromise the home’s structural integrity–rendering the home unsafe.
Biohazard Contamination: Homes of hoarders, more often than not, tend to contain bodily fluid.
- Nonfunctioning bathrooms that are either the result of lack of maintenance or neglect to pay the water bill
- Animal feces- typically it is the side effect of major animal hoarding or from animal attracted to discarded food throughout the home that get inside unnoticed (i.e: rodents).
- And general body fluids left throughout the home that was never addressed
- Due to the nature of such contamination, you should call a professional biohazard cleanup company. Bodily fluids, such as feces and urine, contain bacteria that is dangerous to humans and should be handled with proper care.
Diminished Indoor Air Quality:
- All of the above and various other indoor air pollutants is constantly cycling through the breathing air.
Personal Safety: Overly cluttered homes can lead to generally unsafe living conditions
- Health Risks (mold exposure, poor air quality, biohazard exposure, etc)
- Fire Hazards
- Lack of Egress
- Mobility Limitations- for the person and for first-responders
Hoarding is a serious condition that should not be taken lightly. If you suspect a family member or a friend is a hoarder, you need to seek professional help for them. While a cleanup will be necessary somewhere down the line, the priority should be to identify the underlying issues motivating their hoarding compulsion and resolving that first. Once they are in a comfortable place, emotionally, to take action and de-clutter, call a trained professional to complete the work properly and with discretion.