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Precious keepsakes, memorabilia, letters from loved ones, greeting cards, and valued collectibles fill drawers, shelves, attics, and basements in homes across America. They remind us of special occasions, special people, and memorable times. However, stacks of old newspapers and magazines, boxes of old electronics, unopened mail, damaged furniture, and piles of never used clothing are not keepsakes. There is a psychological difference between an affection for an item and an irresistible urge to accumulate items you find difficulty in discarding. A possession based on a perceived future need, or experiencing distress at the thought of parting with an item, even though it appears to have no value is, hoarding, a compulsive mental disorder. Improving Lives Counseling Services is here to help.

Having a cluttered home, rooms you can’t access, over stuffed drawers and closets that collapse when opened is not hoarding. Living in a dangerously cluttered home that impairs daily activities and is detrimental to health and safety is hoarding. Many of us hang on to treasures from the past, however, the acquisition of and inability to discard items, even though they have no value, is a debilitating pathological disorder, often passed to family members. Whether you identify hoarding as an etiologically discrete phenotype, related to chromosome 14, or tied to genes and DNA, thanks to media and a reality television show, we know the difference in a cluttered home easily accessible with memorabilia on display and the secret life of the hoarder.

Substance abuse, traumatic events, loss of a loved one, or a history of OCD can lead to distorted beliefs and an obsessional fear of losing important items, items never used, rarely seen, and in ill repair. Although hoarding is a disorder that may be present on its own, hoarding has been observed in people diagnosed with dementia, autism, schizophrenia, and mental retardation. Compulsive hoarding affects approximately 700,000 to 1.4 million people in the United States, many of whom won’t acknowledge or discuss it until it becomes a problem for a family member.

In chronic cases, hoarding threatens the safety of those living in or near the home. Damaging effects include: financial difficulties, falls, infestations, health risks, fires, and death. Hoarders are not happy in their environment. They are sad, embarrassed, uncomfortable, and ashamed. Set apart from other people, they suffer a diminished quality of life. Confrontations lead to infighting, conflict, and emotional distress. Compulsive hoarding can be difficult to control. Let Improving Lives Counseling Services help.

Evolutionary, biological, genetic, early experiences, and core beliefs are vulnerabilities of hoarding. Possessions are assigned meaning and value, they trigger emotional reactions, and saving is negatively reinforced. The counselors at Improving Lives Counseling Services provide assessment, diagnosis, and treatment for hoarding and related compulsory disorders. We offer individual, family, and group sessions, accept many insurances, and have six convenient locations. Call us.