Less than a decade ago hoarding was classified as a specific mental health disorder. Prior to that time, hoarding was regarded as a type of obsessive-compulsive disorder or OCD. In essential terms, hoarding disorder is a mental health condition in which an individual is compelled to obtain and save an ever-increasing number of objects. This can include items of absolutely no value, including garbage. Hoarding disorder is marked by a significant inability to part with items once obtained. In addition to being a challenging mental health condition, there are a number of significant dangers associated with hoarding.
The Risk of Fire
As a hoarding situation worsens, and more items accumulate in a person’s home, a dangerous risk of fire occurs. The risk of fire in a hoarding situation can exhibit itself in a number of different ways.
First, in many instances of hoarding, a hoarder accumulates what fairly can be described as an incredible amount of paper and other types of flammable items. A mere spark can be enough to turn a hoarder’s home into a deadly inferno in almost, no time at all.
Second, in some hoarding situations, a minor fire starts somewhere in the interior of a residence. This is a type of fire that in the absence of hoarding could be escaped from with little effort. However, as a result of hoarding, an expeditious emergency exit from a residence becomes impossible. A hallmark of hoarding is that entrances and windows in a residence end up being inaccessible. There may remain one working exit out of a residence. However, because of hoarding, getting to that door can prove daunting and impossible in an emergency situation.
As garbage accumulates in a hoarder’s residence, there is likely to be different types of materials in the mix that can molder and then combust and cause a quickly expanding fire. Rotting foot items represent an example of something that can molder over time and then ultimately combust.
The Presence of Dangerous Biohazards
Another danger associated with progressive hoarding is the development of biohazardous situations in a residence. A biohazard is some type of biological pathogen that has the ability to cause serious or even fatal harm in human beings.
A startling reality is hoarding is that as it progresses, different elements of a residence become unusable. For example, over time the toilets in a hoarder’s residence will become nonfunctional. As a consequence, human feces and urine will start to amass in different locations of a residence. A hoarder will become routinely exposes to his or her own waste in a manner that can result in the transmission of disease.
The risk of dangerous biohazards becomes even greater when a person not only hoards objects but animals as well. When a person hoards animals, the risk of exposure to biohazards is enhanced significantly. Animal feces, urine, and vomit will begin to “pile up,” providing a true breeding ground for viruses and bacteria that can be harmful to the health of a human being, and potentially even fatal.
Another very common danger associated with hoarding is that a hoarder will become socially isolated. Social isolation in a hoarding setting tends to set up a vicious circle. A person becomes socially isolated because of hoarding. In the alternative, a person may start hoarding in response to being socially isolated.
As a hoarding condition worsens a person becomes more socially isolated. As a person becomes more socially isolated, a hoarding condition is apt to worsen. And so and so on.
Other Mental Health Conditions
As a person’s hoarding disorder worsens, he or she is likely to develop other significant mental health conditions. In the alternative, a preexisting mental health condition is like to worsen as hoarding disorder becomes progressively worse. Examples of mental health disorders that can arise from hoarder or that can worsen because of hoarding disorder include:
An associated danger is that as hoarding progresses, a hoarder becomes at a greater risk of suicide. A notable number of hoarders end up attempting suicide. Some hoarders are “successful” when it comes to taking their lives. In more than a few cases, attempted suicide is what brings a hoarding situation to the knowledge of family and friends of the hoarder.
Another danger of hoarding disorder is that a hoarder will begin to experience marked physical deterioration. This occurs for a variety of reasons including as a hoarding situation worsens a hoarder will leave his or her home far less frequently. Exercise and fitness are not in the proverbial cards for a typical hoarder.
More significantly, serious nutritional issues occur as hoarding advances. As hoarding disorder progresses, different aspects of a hoarder’s home become unusable. When hoarding becomes severe, a hoarder’s appliances are not likely to work. This well may include the stove and over as well as the refrigerator and freezer. In other words, a hoarder loses the capacity to store and prepare healthy food items.
In many cases of hoarding disorder, more than one of these identified dangers will manifest. Indeed, in a severe case of hoarding disorder, it is likely that all of these dangers will exist to at least some degree.