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UK OCD The difference between normal collecting, hobbies & Compulsive Hoarding?

House Clearance Help & Advice: What is the difference between “normal” collecting, hobbies, and Compulsive Hoarding?
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What is the difference between “normal” collecting, hobbies, and Compulsive Hoarding?

As with any mental illness, it is important to be able to discern between “normal” but unusual behaviours and extreme behaviours or illness. No-one is saying that someone with a collection of stamps or baseball cards is suffering with Compulsive Hoarding Syndrome and in fact there are very clear distinctions between normal collecting behaviour and harmful Hoarding behaviour.

With this in mind, Dr Randy Frost of the University of Kansas has set out a three point guideline to telling the difference between normal and harmful collecting behaviour. The points are roughly as follows:

1. Compulsive Hoarders obsessively acquire and neglect to discard possessions that are apparently useless or hold very limited value. The desire to acquire these objects is obsessive and overwhelming and the anxiety about discarding them is tremenous. Rationalisations for this behaviour will include logic such as “I will need this later on”. As opposed to a collector’s logic which might be “I like this and would like to add it to my collection, Hoarders imagine that there MAY come a time when their possessions may be of worth rather than justifying their worth in the present tense.

Generally, when a hoarder is in any doubt as to the worth of an object, regardless of how trivial or apparently worthless it is, they will keep it by default.

2. A Hoarder’s living spaces will often be too cluttered to serve their original perpose. Stairways may no longer be negotiable, bedrooms may be too full to sleep in and kitchens too swamped with possessions to cook in.

For many Hoarders the shape of their living spaces literally becomes defined by their clutter. Walls and floors may no longer be visible but narrow pathways between rooms may be made between stacks of possessions.

3. The point when Hoarding can be called a mental illness is the point where it becomes out of control and harmful. When significant distress is caused by any changes in the hoarders organisation of possessions or any loss of an item then it can begin to become a matter of concern. Because of their characteristic perfectionism, compulsive Hoarders often ake longer than normal to perform basic household tasks.

Often, a Hoarder will spend a lot of their type reorganising their clutter despite not possessing any form of consistent organizational system.

Other peripheral characteristics of Hoarders include extremely limited social interactions, which can be both the cause of and the result of the Hoarding behaviour.

Hoarders may sometimes uphold jobs whilst commenting that they are not working in a job that utilises their full potential. They will always be the earliest to clock-in and the last to leave due to taking far longer than other employees to perform their daily tasks.

One survey of a sample of elderly Hoarders revealed that hoarding amounts to a health risk in up to 81% of cases. Included in this number are significant threat through fire hazards, falling, unsanitary conditions and the inability to prepare food.

Hopefully these three point criteria will help you to identify the difference between a Compulsive Hoarder and relatively normal behaviours in friends and relatives.

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