What Makes a Hoarding Disorder?
Not all hoarders recognize they have a problem. In fact, only 15 percent of them are aware that their behavior is irrational, and it isn’t always obvious to non-hoarders that an individual is more than just disorganized. So how do you tell the difference? According to the American Psychiatric Association, between two and five percent of the population are affected by a hoarding disorder. These people form an abnormally strong attachment to their belongings, becoming distressed if someone tries to take them away and keeping more than they could ever have a use for. Excessive buying is characteristic among 75 percent of hoarders, while 50 percent persistently accumulate “freebies” and other gratuitous items. Their collecting habits are often so extreme that they put their health and safety at risk.
Though you might have started out as harmless humanitarian with a heart for rescues and strays, with time, the number of pets in your house can outstrip what you can reasonably care for. In such instances, the animals are often left in a state of neglect. The situation may prove hazardous both for them as well for yourself, since you are exposed to potential diseases associated with unsanitary living conditions.
If your occupation causes you to be around information constantly, such as in the case of professors and researchers, it is possible to become obsessed with the accruing of resources. This condition, known as bibliomania, or book hoarding, causes you to compulsively collect books and other materials such as calendars, recipes, and greeting cards. Another route to becoming an information hoarder is by having difficulty letting go of past details. You may fear that you will one day need an item that serves a very limited purpose, such as an old to-do list, and find yourself saving an inordinate amount of printed materials.
Even an environmentally conscious enterprise like recycling can escalate into disaster when massive piles of plastic bottles, old cardboard boxes, aluminum cans, and others recyclables accumulate in your house. As a recycle hoarder, you may have had the intention of turning in your recycle for cash. Over time, however, because of the sheer quantity of recyclables collected, sorting through and transporting them to a facility becomes a practical impossibility.
Someone with syllogomania is commonly known as a trash hoarder. As the name suggests, you might see a treasure chest in what some call a heap of garbage, even if it contains few, if any, items of real personal value. The trash you keep in your home may be your own, or you may have the habit of picking up discarded items in the streets or in landfills. The physical and mental implications of such behavior can be drastic as the garbage can restrict access to several rooms and utilities throughout your house. In the most extreme cases, your living space becomes an invitation for rodents and insects to build their homes, presenting a serious health hazard.