Hoarding IS a mental illness > Compulsive hoarding has been classified as a mental health disorder for the first time by the World Health Organisation (WHO). Medics claim the move could benefit thousands of people.
Psychiatrists have heralded the decision as ‘extremely significant’ as it will help doctors and the NHS identify people struggling with a hoarding disorder and improve treatment for a condition campaigners say affects up to 5% of the population.
Critics cry ‘cobblers’, saying that putting a label on a simple obsession gives it a medical respectability that panders to hypochondriacs.
WHO has none it. It states that out-of-control hoarding is characterised by an ‘accumulation of possessions due to excessive acquisition of or difficulty discarding possessions, regardless of their actual value‘. It now classifies hoarding disorder as a mental illness separate from other disorders, when previously extreme hoarding was classified as merely a symptom or sub-type of obsessive-compulsive disorder.
A hoarding disorder specialist explained, “The problem is more common in people with psychological disorders such as depression, anxiety and attention deficit hyperactivity. Other factors often associated with pack rats include alcohol dependence and paranoid, schizotypal and avoidance traits”.
Until now, those watching the mocking documentaries on daytime TV about compulsive hoarders, may have reconciled themselves by saying, ‘Well, at least I am not as bad as those sad maties“. But do they now have reason to worry?
We asked our callers. “In my opinion hoarding is only a problem if you can’t find your cat,” joked one client. Other replies included “it is not hoarding if it is books or wine” …. ” I prefer the term collector, as hoarder sounds too negative“, while one sage replied, “hoarding one’s hurt only hurts the hoarder“. One client confessed, “If there was a reality show about email hoarding I would be a star”, while another said, “I am something of a digital hoarder – instantly pinning something on Pininterest because I fear I will never find it again. And yet I know I will never look at it again!”.
The real answer to the question is that apart from extreme cases – as the lady pictured – there are better things to worry about. Certainly if you turn up at A&E with a self-diagnosis of having a hoarder disorder, you will get a frosty response.
Maybe your hoarding can be explained as insecurity, a desire to avoid wastefulness, a hobby out of control, severe emotional attachment to inanimate objects, or an extreme anxiety when making decisions. But whatever the cause, if your extreme hoarding really is a silent cry for help, then you know who to phone.
The alternative is to dump the lot and declare yourself a orthophobe. Better hurry though, as minimalism and obsessive compulsive decluttering are sure to be declared mental disorders before the year is out.