Hoarding Disorder- When Should You Get Professional Help?

Hoarding disorder is something most of us are familiar with in today’s society due to the popularity of hoarding television shows. We often receive calls from clients who will try to give us a comparison of their own home to that of a show they saw on TV. While many people may call themselves or their family members hoarders, a person with a true hoarding disorder will often require professional help. As organizers, we look for signs of blocked exits, blocked or covered stairways and fire hazards such as papers piled on a stove or combustible chemicals stored near a heat source.

I had the chance to talk with Dr. Elspeth Bell, a licensed psychologist with the Behavior Therapy Center in Silver Spring, MD. Dr. Bell specializes in providing therapy to hoarders.

She said people with a hoarding disorder should get professional help when:

  • There is stress or impairment
  • There are problems in relationships
  • They can’t use their home the way they want
  • They aren’t able to have someone such as a repairman in their home

Many people who hoard have:

  • Strong emotional ties to things
  • Experienced trauma or loss
  • Anxiety, depression or ADHD

Dr. Bell said that by working with a mental health professional to address the above concerns, a person will be more prepared, and better able, to sort through the clutter in their home.

Dr. Bell uses an image rating scale with her clients. She presents photos of rooms in various states of “clutter” and asks them to compare these photos to their own homes. She recommended one of our favorite books, Buried in Treasures. It contains measurement scales to determine the extent of hoarding as well as information on hoarding disorder.

When I asked her about reaching out for help with hoarding, she said, “It is very scary, but the anticipation is worse than the actual doing. A therapist is a resource tool to aid you, not your enemy. They are a member of your treatment team and the client is the leader.” She said her job is to, “enhance the quality of life.”

If you are a person who hoards or you are looking to aid someone who is, a professional organizer’s services are a great addition to your team. We offer the in-home nonjudgmental support and know how to keep you on task, and our services are most effective when a therapist, such as Dr. Bell, is part of the team.

Jenny PowerAbsolutely Organized, LLC

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