Hoarding Disorder has recently become a recognized disorder by the American Psychiatric Association. While no one but a trained practitioner can diagnose Hoarding Disorder, here are some red flags that you or someone you love is well on the way to this diagnosis.
1. Inability to throw things away
One of the first signs of a hoarding disorder is an inability to throw things away. You may suffer from extreme anxiety at the prospect of throwing away or getting rid of your possessions. This can be true even with things that are considered by most to be garbage – old newspapers, take out containers, old food, and broken electronics. When these kinds of items start to pile up, and you have a physical and emotional response to the idea of throwing them away, it is time to get some help.
2. Your possessions have gone beyond clutter
Most people have a certain amount of clutter in and around their homes. We have junk drawers and storage closets. We have cubby holes and garages where things go that we do not immediately have a use for. Many have storage units away from their homes to keep odds and ends that do not have a specific place. But there is a line between having regular clutter and moving toward hoarding.
3. Your possessions have taken over your home
Eventually, your possessions will start taking away from your living space. It is typical for hoarders for have created paths for themselves to be able to move a little within the piles. Often, there will be one path that leads to every useable space in the home. For example, the path may start at the front door lead to the sofa, from the sofa to the refrigerator, from the refrigerator to the bed, and from the bed to the toilet. The path must be traversed in this sequence in order for the walker to get to any one of these areas. It is also fairly common for whole sections of the home to eventually become blocked off so that there is no way to get near them without either clearing things away or climbing over things.
4. You are embarrassed about the state of your home
Many people are concerned about presenting a clean home and a healthy appearance if they have guests. If you are exhibiting hoarding tendencies, you are likely to be embarrassed about your home to the point where you rarely let people in. Unlike collectors who are proud of their collections and show anyone who comes near that things that they have collected, hoarders hide what they keep or try to hide everything until it becomes too big of a problem to hide anymore. You shy away from having people come in. You may step outside to talk with anyone who comes to your door rather than have him or her step inside. Depending upon the length of your disorder, it may have been years since anyone but you was in your home.
5. You do not like your possessions to be touched
Since you have mostly stopped letting people in your home, this may not be an issue. However, it might be one of the reasons why you have not let anyone come in for quite some time. It is possible that someone at one point has offered to help you get a handle on your possessions. This made you feel completely uncomfortable because the idea of someone else touching your things was too much for you to handle. Even if you find your possessions unmanageable and it would be great for someone to come and help you, you are too anxious about someone touching your things.
6. You are unable to use many of your appliances or conveniences anymore
If you have a physical or emotional reaction to throwing anything away, you have likely not been able to clean out your refrigerator which means that it is full of mold. It may not even be working because you are extremely uncomfortable with anyone touching your things. The same could be true for your sink, your toilet, your oven, and any of the other fixtures or appliances in your home.
7. Your possessions are impeding your daily function
Because your appliances and your plumbing are not functional or not accessible, you may be unable to keep up on your personal hygiene. You may not be able to cook anything so you are relying entirely on deliverable take out. Your home may smell bad because of the garbage around, but you cannot bring yourself to clean or throw anything away. You cannot clean your clothes and may not be able to get to clean ones you may have.
All of these things and more are an indication that you have a hoarding problem and that it is time to seek help.