Hoarding is a very difficult problem to deal with. It often occurs as a symptom of obsessive compulsive personality disorder. One of the features of this disorder is that the person sees nothing wrong with what they are doing . A hoarder finds it easy to justify a compulsive need to accumulate items by pointing out the virtues of thrift, and hoarding even seems sometimes encouraged by recycling initiatives. The problem encountered with the hoarder is that the items collected for recycling are never thrown away. Items saved for reuse are used at a lesser rate than they are accumulated and the hoard takes over!
Living in or visiting a house which is full of hoarded items is very stressful. In addition to hoarding, a person who has an obsessive compulsive personality disorder will also have rituals and procedures surrounding nearly every item and activity and if you disturb any of their rituals or break any of their rules they can react aggressively towards you, especially if you are considered close family. An person with obsessive compulsive disorder may be able to behave relatively normally with “company” for some time but eventually they will lose their cool as their total control over the environment is challenged.
The hoarder of urban legend is the elderly person with a filthy home full of piled up newspapers and a hoard of cats or dogs. However hoarders can be clean as well.
For instance a person may be obsessed with saving water to the point where the laundry is completely full of buckets and various other kinds of containers of recycled water including plastic ice cream containers and jugs.Getting into the room is hard enough and getting near the tub or the washing machine is impossible until the person in control of the hoard is consulted about what might be moved or discarded in order to use the facilities.
This might involve a period of time where the person inspects and ascertains the relative soapiness of the containers of water and deliberates about what may be moved or discarded in order to free up one bucket for instance.The person may have to perform one or more unimportant tasks compulsively before this can be achieved so as not to waste anything. This ritual behaviour can waste minutes or hours as one of the problems of the condition is that the person with the disorder takes much longer than normal to complete simple routine tasks, because of their obsessive compulsive desire that everything be done just right.
Whilst the obsessive compulsive hoarder insists that objects, water, animals etc must be “saved” there is one thing they are willing to waste on unproductive activities in bucket loads and that is time.
This is very frustrating for an outsider or the obsessives’ family who feel that they are constantly treading on egg shells with this person and constantly being accused of doing wrong, when in fact the issues at stake are relatively minor ones blown out of all proportion in the mind of the person with the obsessive compulsive personality. This kind of atmosphere is very damaging for children even if they are clean, well fed and otherwise well cared for. Feeling alone and upset about the problem is very depressing. This kind of obsessive behaviour pattern is one of the most difficult to change as the person affected behaves in this way partly because they have little or no insight into how their behaviour is affecting others and do not understand how their controlling actions are affecting their relationships with others.
Most people dealing with obsessive compulsive personality disorder would like to have a better relationship with that person but the compulsive person’s constant need for total control usually results in relationship breakdown and alienation.