Could Your Parent or Loved One’s Hoarding Be A Sign Of Depression?

The condition of hoarding has become more well-know since the reality television series “Hoarders” began airing on A & E in 2009, but I think that we all know someone who has been affected by this condition. I know of 2 people, one a lady who has lived alone for many years and the other, a parent of a friend of mine.

What is hoarding disorder?

According to the Mayo Clinic, “Hoarding disorder is a persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions because of a perceived need to save them. A person with hoarding disorder experiences distresses at the thought of getting rid of the items. Excessive accumulation of items, regardless of actual value, occurs.”

This serious health condition can lead to dangerous living conditions, poor hygiene, malnutrition, rodents and other infestations and even more isolation.

75% of persons diagnosed with hoarding disorder have underlying mental health issues. Some of these conditions include depression and anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, phobias, and dementia, among others. If your loved one is displaying symptoms of hoarding, there’s a possibility that they are dealing with depression and will need your help to overcome it. However, even as you help your parent or loved one, you must do so while you maintain their sense of independence and dignity.

How Depression Causes Hoarding

One of the most common causes of hoarding among parents is depression, according to research by the Mental Health Association of San Francisco. Various factors were identified as causes of depression, with loneliness being one of the major triggers. Solitary adults tend to collect things that brought precious memories and gave them companionship. The loss of a loved one was found to not only cause depression but also lead parents to accumulate various items that reminded them of the deceased.

Moreover, growing up deprived of certain things due to poverty or by their parents can cause depression. Because they can afford these items now, they relive their childhood by collecting what they missed. The gathering of such objects often leads to hoarding, both at home and in the workplace. The clutter makes moving difficult and often causes falls and injuries. Fortunately, there is help for your parent or loved one if they are hoarding due to depression.

Helping your Loved One Stop Hoarding

Until recently, most people approached hoarding with typical cleanouts. Research indicates that there is more to hoarding than just accumulating stuff. To help your hoarding parent, encourage them to see a therapist. Psychotherapy, also called talk therapy is the primary treatment; cognitive behavioral therapy is the most common form of psychotherapy used for hoarding disorder. It would be good to accompany them to the therapist for support and to understand how best to help them. As the mental issues are getting addressed, help them to clean up slowly, being mindful of their health and independence. Help them handle one item at a go as they scale down what they own. Should there be items they are unable to decide on, help by keeping them in a box aside to revisit later. Ask them what they want to do with the extra stuff even as you gently guide them.

Just like other mental issues, hoarding can become a disorder if unchecked. When your parent or loved one is accumulating stuff, you must understand that there could be underlying issues. Encouraging them to seek professional help to understand the cause of their behavior is important as well as getting rid of the clutter.

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