NDSU Extension - Sargent County


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Our summer intern, Makenzie Forward, read about “hoarding” in a publication from the Mental Health and Aging Project that was conducted by NDSU Department of Child Development and Family Science and sponsored by the Division of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services at our ND Department of Human Services.  She pulled information from that publication to create this week’s “Seize the Day” news column.

Do you ever go shopping and find an item you really like? Then you think to yourself “Well, do I really need it? It’s only one little thing, I could find a spot for this in my house!” Chances are we’ve all been there.  Usually, it isn’t that big of a deal because it really is only one little item. However, sometimes it becomes a habit for people, and they get to a point where they have to buy that item, or they may experience some anxiety. People with this tendency are referred to as hoarders.

Hoarders share some common characteristics. They are usually isolated, especially if they live by themselves. Often the person has never married, or the person who used to keep everything in check has passed away. Hoarders are also mainly women. This may be because women live longer and tend to seek help more readily than men, so they are simply identified as hoarders. Lastly, hoarders are people who often lack impulse control. Compulsive buying is a huge part of their problem, and they can’t help it.

Hoarders collect different items, but the top seven “deadly” items they collect include newspapers, paper, containers, clothing, food, books, and trash. Hoarders almost always try to justify their hoarding as well. They may use different tactics like denial: “That’s not junk. I use that.” They try to rationalize: “That could come in handy some day.” They try to minimize the problem: “What I save isn’t a big deal. I can handle it all.” Lastly, they try to avoid the statement: “I will take care of it soon.” All of these statements are examples of how hoarders act, and they usually don’t realize what they’re doing. Seventy-three percent of people won’t admit there is a problem. Twelve percent show little insight that they have a problem. Only 15% agree that it’s irrational.

Family members and friends may try to help these people, but it’s very hard to change a person’s habit. Forced cleanups usually distress the hoarder, and once it’s cleaned, it goes right back to the way it was. The compulsion to hoard objects is chronic. Therefore, the person is going to need lifelong therapy. If you know a hoarder, there are a couple signs you need to watch for. If the hoarder isn’t the greatest at organization, they may get personal belongings mixed up in junk and then thrown out accidently. This could cause them a lot of anxiety. Their house usually becomes dirtier which could result in increased health risks, like asthma from smelling the dust or mold in the air.

Hoarding can be a serious problem. If you know someone who has these characteristics, it is important to get help. More information is available on http://www.ndsu.nodak.edu/ndsu/aging/mentalhealth.

Source: NDSU & North Dakota Department of Human Health-Mental Health and Aging Project

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