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Choosing a Top Private Hoarding Addiction Treatment Facility

In December of 2011, a fire broke out in an apartment in Charlotte, North Carolina. According to news reports, when neighbors discovered smoke pouring from a man’s open window, they rushed to open the door and help the man escape. They were only able to open the door a few inches, however, because the man had collected a large amount of papers and items that were blocking the door. The neighbors and the firemen were unable to save the man.

In order to truly heal, someone who hoards needs to examine why they hoard, and they need to learn how to stop the behavior from taking over.

A woman in Hillsboro, Oregon, was arrested in 2007 in what news reports called one of the largest animal abuse cases in the state’s history. The woman had 154 rabbits, and 100 more were found in the freezers on her property. After the animals were seized, the woman stole the rabbits from the shelter and attempted to populate another house with them. Although the rabbits were malnourished, and many had died, the woman expressed a deep and abiding love of her rabbits and she simply could not keep away from them. In 2009, the woman was arrested again because she had violated her parole and was once more keeping rabbits.

These two stories demonstrate the high cost paid by people with hoarding addictions. These people are consumed with collecting, and they continue to add to their collections to their own detriment. Helping someone overcome hoarding means more than just removing the collections and helping the person clean up.

What Is Hoarding?

It’s a common misconception that people who hoard tend to collect many items of value. In fact, according to the International OCD Foundation, one in two people report hoarding free materials they receive, such as advertising flyers or samples. Some people even hoard packing materials that protect items they buy.
Newspapers, books and clothing are commonly hoarded, but almost anything could be added to the pile. Unlike collectors who choose specific items to fill out a set, hoarders tend to collect a large amount of items seemingly at random, and many of those items don’t seem to be related to one another in any way.
In addition to collecting large amounts of items, people who hoard tend to have an inability to deal with the items they do collect. They may:
  • Shift items from one pile to another, without removing anything
  • Place valuable items and worthless items in the same piles
  • Begin to sort items, but become overwhelmed and abandon the project
  • Feel as though one day they will “clean up” and get organized
  • Feel comforted by their collections
  • Refuse to give items away, or let people borrow the items they’re hoarding

As the collections grow, life becomes increasingly difficult for the person who is hoarding. As another article published by the International OCD Foundation suggests, the hoarding begins to make the home completely unlivable. Of those studied, almost half could not use their refrigerators, kitchen sinks or bathtubs, and 10 percent could not use their toilets. The possessions begin to take over, and the person allows himself or herself a smaller and smaller area in which to live. Some hoarders suffer severe social isolation as a result, refusing to allow visitors into their living area and refusing to leave their own homes.

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Animal Hoarding

Some hoarders hold down steady jobs, and some even work with animals on a daily basis. They may not allow people to visit their homes, but they may fully participate in activities outside the home.

People who hoard items also may collect staggering amounts of animals in their homes. Cats are commonly hoarded, as they are small and quiet, so neighbors don’t tend to notice their presence. But almost anything can be hoarded, from rabbits to chickens to dogs to snakes and squirrels. Most hoarders tend to focus their hoarding on one species of animal, but some hoarders collect more than one type of animal.

An animal hoarder may feel a deep attachment to the pets, but as the population grows, the caregiver may develop a serious inability to care for the animals. The pets may befoul the air, making the area dangerous for both humans and animals, and some hoarders have populations so large that live animals are housed with dead animals. The animals that are hoarded suffer extreme neglect, even though the hoarder may not recognize this neglect. In fact, many animal hoarders believe that they are helping their animals, or preventing them from being killed or abused by others, even while the animals die in their care.

Why Hoard?

It can be difficult to determine why people choose to hoard animals, but the Hoarding of Animals Research Consortium suggests that a trauma in childhood or a genetic abnormality may be at the root of the disorder. The person may find an animal’s unconditional love appealing, and then find that caring for the animals makes them feel powerful. This craving for power keeps them collecting, even when they can no longer provide adequate care for the animals they have. The animals themselves aren’t helpful in this regard, as the animals often keep breeding and adding to the population on their own.

People who hoard inanimate objects may do so for a variety of reasons, such as:

  • Misplaced thrift. They may believe that they will need these items in the future, and they may be terrified about throwing away those items now.
  • Grief. Some people keep scraps of paper from lunches they had with people who died, or they may keep sets of clothing that belonged to their deceased parents. Any object reminds them of the loved one, and it’s hard for these people to part with those memories.
  • Aesthetics. Some people simply like the way papers feel or the way shiny bits of plastic catch the sunlight. They may find their piles to simply be pleasing to the eye.
  • Camouflage. Some people hoard so visitors will look at their collections instead of looking at them.
  • Compulsive shopping. They may buy items in multiples, planning to give one set as a gift.

The Link to OCD

People who have obsessive-compulsive disorders may also hoard, but their hoarding behaviors may be slightly different. In short, people with OCD may hoard out of a displaced sense of order. They may buy items in multiples, because they believe that one item alone is bad luck. They may keep packaging in orderly piles because they can’t abide the idea of crumpling up packaging and putting it in a recycling bin. They may also keep items in order to count them. This is a slightly different pathology than the person who collects meaningful and worthless items and keeps them in haphazard groups.

Addiction or Illness?

People in the mental health community often struggle with the idea of naming hoarding an addiction.

According to an article published in Psychology Today, hoarding doesn’t meet the technical definition for addiction. Researchers have discovered that people who take drugs or who gamble compulsively actually change the way their brains work. When they take drugs or when they gamble, they flood their bodies with dopamine, and soon, their bodies become addicted to this feel-good chemical secreted by the brain. People who hoard, by contrast, do not feel the same sort of dopamine boost through their behaviors and they don’t, therefore, show a chemical-based addiction.

This doesn’t mean, however, that hoarding isn’t serious. In fact, heading into a hoarder’s home and removing all of the hoarded items will rarely cure the disease. The person might feel violated or extremely upset by the cleaning, and these pains may cause the person to start rebuilding the collection right away. Without therapy, the person has not dealt with the triggers or the emotional issues that started the hoarding. In other words, the behavior may be dormant, but it’s certainly not gone.

There Is Hope

Having large groups of animals in the house can cause serious problems for the animals, and these large groups can also cause serious problems for the person. In addition, most states consider animal hoarding a crime, and allowing the behavior to continue could cause a significant amount of police involvement and distress for the person and his or her family. If someone you know is hoarding animals, call us today and ask for our advice. We can provide you with the resources you need to help the person you love.

People who hoard animals need immediate help.

Those who hoard books, papers and other detritus may not be breaking the law, but they’re far from living a healthy life. They may face safety concerns due to their hoarding. Once again, cleaning out the items will provide little, if any, help and the person must get professional help in order to truly heal. Give us a call today and we will you find the best private inpatient hoarding addiction treatment center.