How to Help a Hoarder

Hoarding is a compulsion that causes people to hang on to possessions that may seem worthless or of low value. A hoarding habit can be problematic when these items accumulate to a point that they fill up someone’s home and prevent them from fully accessing their living space. Hoarders can also become isolated from friends and family if they are too embarrassed about the mess to invite others into their house.

Warning Signs of Hoarding

Someone you care about might be a compulsive hoarder if you notice the following red flags about their behavior.

  • Unwillingness to part with items, even if they are broken or otherwise useless
  • A large amount of clutter makes it hard to get around easily
  • Losing track of money, bills or valuables amid the chaos
  • Feeling overwhelmed by the possessions that have taken over their life
  • Stocking up on items they don’t need
  • A strong emotional attachment to personal effects

Why Do People Hoard?

Hoarders often struggle with their habits for years before finally seeking help. They tend to live alone, which can allow the problem to continue worsening because nobody is around to notice how far it’s progressed.

While hoarding can be devastating, it’s important to remember that your loved one hasn’t chosen to accumulate an uncontrollable amount of stuff. Hoarding is a complex problem that often accompanies mental health disorders. For example, some estimates suggest as many as one in four people with obsessive-compulsive disorder are hoarders. A traumatic event or the death of a spouse or parent may cause hoarding behavior to worsen.

Tips for Helping a Hoarder

Helping a hoarder goes beyond cleaning out their home. Any attempt to discard their belongings without their permission can do more harm than good because they will likely become angry and distressed and may begin collecting items all over again. Failing to adequately identify and address the underlying problem will allow it to recur.

Despite their disorganized and sometimes unhealthy living conditions, many people with hoarding disorder may not identify their behavior as problematic. It might take multiple attempts to begin a conversation about changing their habits. No matter how sincerely you express your concerns, they may not accept your offer to help until they find the internal motivation to change.

When a person seems willing to talk about a hoarding problem, follow these guidelines.

  • Don’t push them to make decisions they’re not comfortable with.
  • Be empathetic. Try to understand their attachment to their belongings.
  • Encourage them to brainstorm ideas to make their home safer, such as removing piles of items from hallways.
  • Help them realize how hoarding has adversely affected their quality of life.
  • To foster trust, never throw anything away without asking permission.
  • Research treatment options in your area, and offer to go with them to appointments if that will help them stay on the right track.

Planning a Mental Health Intervention

If left untreated, hoarding and OCD can be debilitating, leaving severely mentally ill people too incapacitated to seek help independently. Many times, an outsider’s perspective is the best way to help someone understand why their behavior is problematic. A professionally organized mental health intervention can guide your loved one to the help they need to heal.

At Whitman Recovery Service, our team has held interventions in all 50 states with a more than 90% success rate. To learn more about what we can do for you and your family, reach out to us today.