Content warning: this article deals with instances of mental illness and stigma. It might be triggering to some. Please take care of yourself!
It’s probably slipped out at least once or twice: “I’m such a hoarder!”
Though there has been little research done on the mental illness, hoarding is pretty widely accepted to be a specific strain of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
This may come as a bit of a shock or seem even funny because OCD is most commonly associated with excessive cleanliness, but that’s often not the case — that is just one of the hardest strains to hide.
OCD is actually quite simple: you’re obsessed with the thought of something, so you have a compulsion to satisfy the anxiety that comes from the obsession. For cleaning, that could be an obsession, a fear, of getting friends or family sick, so they wash their hands after touching any object that could have germs.
For hoarding, it could be that they’re afraid letting go of material things could lead to the letting go of memories — or people — associated with them. If you pay attention, stories of hoarding often start with the death of a family member, significant other, friend or pet.
It’s like saving your grandfather’s favourite chair or hat after he dies, just to an extreme level.
Hoarding has also been linked to many other mental illnesses, commonly depression.
It’s important to remember that no one wants to live like you see on Hoarders: Buried Alive, but they feel like they don’t have a choice. It’s overwhelming to get rid of things that they’re afraid to let go of.
We need to break the stigma around hoarding. These people need help in a way that you don’t to clean up your apartment. They’re at risk for countless diseases and homelessness and the language we use around hoarding should be same as how we speak about anxiety and depression.