Hoarding Awareness Week: Symptoms of hoarding - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Hoarding Awareness Week: Symptoms of hoarding

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A before and after photo of a hoarding case A before and after photo of a hoarding case
SPOKANE, Wash. -

You may or may not know this week is Hoarding Disorder Awareness Week in Washington. 

Governor Jay Inslee dedicated the week to raise public awareness on Hoarding Disorder, a new psychiatric diagnosis that according to Inslee and Dr. Jennifer Sampson, Executive Director of The Hoarder Project*, affects up to 345,000 Washingtonians. 

“Education and research that support accurate understanding of the complexities of Hoarding Disorder are lagging far behind most other mental and public health issues,” says Sampson. “Because of this, current responses that address hoarding situations at individual, family, and community levels are often ineffective, inappropriate, expensive, and potentially unethical.”

How do you know if you suffer from hoarding? Someone who hoards may exhibit the following according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America:

  • Inability to throw away possessions
  • Severe anxiety when attempting to discard items
  • Great difficulty categorizing or organizing possessions
  • Indecision about what to keep or where to put things
  • Distress, such as feeling overwhelmed or embarrassed by possessions
  • Suspicion of other people touching items
  • Obsessive thoughts and actions: fear of running out of an item or of needing it in the future; checking the trash for accidentally discarded objects
  • Functional impairments, including loss of living space, social isolation, family or marital discord, financial difficulties, health hazards

People hoard because they believe an item will be useful or have value in the future. Sometimes they feel it has sentimental value and is irreplaceable. But don't confuse hoarding with collecting. The ADAA says collectors generally will have a sense of pride about their possessions and take joy in displaying and talking about them. Hoarders usually experience embarrassment about their possessions and feel uncomfortable when others see them. Their possessions are usually not well-organized. 

Hoarders don't only collect objects either. The ADAA claims 40 percent of object hoarders also hoard animals. The number of animal hoarders have increased five-fold in the past decade. According to the ADAA, at least 250,000 animals are affected by hoarding each year in the 3,500 cases that are reported to authorities. 

Between 2 and 5 percent of the general population meets the criteria for hoarding, both animals and objects, according to the ADAA. If you think someone you know, perhaps a loved one, is a hoarder, the ADAA has a guide you can follow to plan in intervention. 

*The Hoarding Project is a Tacoma-based non-profit organization that’s mission is to promote an effective, ethical, and sustainable response to hoarding in communities, through research, education and prevention, and collaborative approaches to treatment. We recognize hoarding as a complex mental health disorder that has significant influence on individuals, families, and communities and are committed to implementing appropriate responses at each of these levels. For more information on The Hoarding Project at this week’s events, visit the website: www.thehoardingproject.org.

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