What is Compulsive Hoarding Syndrome?
Compulsive Hoarding Syndrome or CHS is the technical name for the state of obsessively stockpiling or being unable to discard worthless items (despite them appearing to hold little value).
Somewhere between 700,000 and 1.4 Million people in the US are estimated to be sufferers of full-blown Compulsive Hoarding Syndrome but what are the symptoms? How can you tell if someone you know is suffering from this illness?
Compulsive Hoarding goes beyond a “normal” enthusiasm or a hobbyists collection. It is the result of someone’s compulsion to indiscriminately hoard items that they take no pleasure from. Commonly, Compulsive Hoarding results in people turning their homes into dumping grounds or walling themselves in with stacks of useless possessions such as old newspapers or empty tins.
Often, Compulsive Hoarders will rationalise their behaviour by telling themselves that they may “need it later”. This logic can turn the compulsion to an abiding fear that they may lose even one item from their mounds of guarded possessions. Typical hoarders will compulsively save things such as old newspapers, magazines, old clothing, bags, book, mail, notes and lists.
A wide variety of psychiatric disorders count CHS amongst their symptoms although the most common overall diagnosis for a sufferer of CHS is usually Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Those sufferers of OCD who report Hoarding as a symptom often testify to extreme discomfort when attempting to throw away a possession that they have hoarded. Often, the obsession leads to extreme indecision, procrastination, avoidance and sometimes more dangerous symptoms such as hallucinatory denial.
As well as a difficulty in throwing away useless or old possessions, Hoarders often suffer from other obsessive compulsions such as extreme indecision and perfectionism. An example of this would be someone who postpones a simple task indefinitely for fear of making a mistake. This task could be washing the dishes or picking up the mail. Together, an attitude of perfectionism mxed with the fear of making a mistake often leads Hoarders to neglect performing simple, necessary tasks and subsequently leads to degradation of personal hygiene and living conditions.
Overall, Compulsive Hoarding is a legitimate mental illness that affects a significant minority of the population. Hoarders usually have a distinct and noticable character profile that includes perfectionism, indecision and fear of failure. All of this combines to form a subgroup of OCD that requires different forms of treatment and care.
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