To many people, it is difficult to understand hoarding disorders or how people that struggle with hoarding issues can allow their homes to fall into a messy and dangerous condition. There are between 10 and 15 million Americans that struggle with hoarding issues and their disorder typically goes through stages that get increasingly more severe as the disorder develops. Matt Paxton, the host of the television show “Hoarders” and founder of ServiceMaster’s hoarding solutions program, has come up with 5 stages of hoarding that he presents at his speaking engagements to educate people on the warning signs of hoarding and what causes hoarding.
- Emotional Cause: In almost all cases of hoarding, there is an emotional trigger that can be pinpointed to the start of the problem. This emotional cause can be grief from a variety of scenarios such as the loss of a loved one, a divorce, or disease among others.
- Physical Replacement: When hoarding disorders intensify, the individual will place their self-worth in physical objects. The biggest sign of a hoarder in this stage is that the individual will start buying things in bulk to have more physical objects around them.
- Avoidance: If you have a family member or close friend that you suspect may be a hoarder, pay attention to who they allow in their home, if anyone. Someone who is preventing friends or family members from entering their home may be doing it to avoid confronting their hoarding issue.
- Negative Physical Replacement: As the hoarding disorder develops, the physical replacement becomes more extreme as objects begin replacing friends and family in importance. This is especially apparent if a hoarder has lost a loved one and responds by getting more objects or animals to clutter their home.
- Dangerous Condition: As the hoard of collected items within a home grows, it begins to restrict access by blocking off certain areas of the home and it can harbor harmful mold and bacteria growth which makes the house dangerous to live in. This is usually the stage when family members recognize that an individual is hoarding and help with the hoarding cleanup process.
It is important to keep in mind that everyone is different and these signs of hoarding may not manifest themselves in the same way in each individual case. But if you notice any similarity between these signs of a hoarder and the actions of a friend or family member that you suspect of hoarding, it is best to approach this individual about their hoarding disorder before it develops into a more severe case.
A friend or family member of a hoarder normally assumes the responsibility of helping a hoarder clean out their home and there are professional services that can help. Talk to a service provider that offers hoarding cleanup services to determine the best way to approach an individual who hoards as well as the appropriate cleaning methods.