Posted by: Ellen Hankes | July 14, 2008

How Can I Tell if Someone is a Hoarder?

We hear the term Hoarding used in various wasy. Dr. David F. Tolin, author of Buried in Treasures: The Psychology of Compulsive Hoarding, is an expert in hoarding behaviors. His  book contains valuable help for family and friends who want to help hoarders.

There are three characteristics of compulsive hoarding, according to Dr. Tolin.

  1. The acquisition of, and failure to discard, things of limited value.  Piles of unread, outdated newspapers or empty cereal boxes are examples of things of limited value.
  2. Living spaces that are so cluttered that they can not be used as originally intended. When appliances are inoperable because of extreme clutter they cannot be used as washers or ranges as they were originally  meant to be used. Furthermore, safety for person and property becomes an issue of concern.
  3. Significant distress or impairment caused by the clutter. Removal of clutter by a person not trained in working with hoarders can cause the individual extreme distress.

A free resource that can provide assessment information is the National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization Clutter Hoarding Scale. This tool will help an individual better understand the level of risk of health and safety related to the specifics of a hoarding situation.

If you are unsure about how to proceed, contact a mental health professional or a trained member of the National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization.

Do you have more questions about hoarding?


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