Hoarding is a recognized mental health disorder. Hoarding disorder is defined as a persistent challenge in discarding or letting go of possessions as the result of a perceived need to keep or save these items. An individual with hoarding disorder can experience extreme distress at the thought of having to get rid of accumulated items. As a consequence, excessive accumulation occurs, which results in a myriad of issues, problems, and even hazards. Oftentimes a person suffering from hoarding disorder is in denial. Consequently, you may be in a position at which you wonder how you can assist a hoarder in denial.
Don’t Be Accusatory
When it comes to assisting a person with hoarding disorder, you must not be accusatory about anything related to that individual’s situation or life. You should reach out to a friend or family member laboring under the burden of hoarding disorder in a gentle manner and without making pronouncements of any type as you do so.
Don’t Demand to Schedule Meeting in the Hoarder’s Home
Never try to force your way into the home of a person with hoarding disorder, either physically or verbally. Don’t develop some scheme in an attempt to worm your way inside a hoarder’s home.
A person with hoarding disorder, even one who is in a state of denial, is likely to want to keep others out of his or her residence. There can be an array of different motivations for a hoarder to keep people away from his or her residence. These motivations depend on how a hoarder relates at the moment to his or her situation. For example, a person who understands that he or she has some sort of issue with accumulating possessions can feel ashamed. On the other hand, a hoarder in denial may sincerely believe other people want to get into his or her house to steal items.
Listen to the Hoarder
Once you’ve reached a juncture at which a hoarder is willing to spend at least some time talking to you about his or her situation, you need to be sure to listen intently to what that individual feels like sharing with you. to listen intently to what that individual feels like sharing with you. Initially, it may be best if you talk very little about hoarding what the status of the hoarder’s lire. Although questions eventually will be in order eventually, initially you may best serve the interests of a hoarder, and your own, by avoiding asking any particular questions about the hoarder’s life, state of his or her home, and similar questions.
When you do make comments, endeavor to make them supportive. You likely will want to avoid statements along the lines of “I understand what’s going on.” The reality is that unless you were a hoarder at some juncture in your life, you likely don’t actually understand the state of a person with hoarding disorder’s existence. If you make a statement like that, a person with hoarding disorder may conclude you’re being disingenuous or even dishonest.
When it appears that you’ve gained at least some level of trust with the hoarder, you can begin to ask some basic questions, non-threatening questions. Oftentimes, the ideal point at which asking questions becomes appropriate is once a person suffering from hoarding disorder shares some more specific information about their situation, including the status of the hoarder’s residence. Thus, questions that lead from statements made by the person with hoarding disorder are natural and are less likely to be interpreted in a threatening manner by the hoarder. Examples of such questions include:
- Do you feel lonely or isolated because of the clutter in your home?
- Would you like to be able to use all of the rooms in your home again?
- Do you think you’d feel better – about everything – if your home was in better order?
- How do you feel about your home right now?
- Would you think about letting me and perhaps some others you approve of to assist you in getting some order to your home?
Get Professional Assistance and Other Support
When you are trying to assist a loved one who is a hoarder in denial, you do not need to embark on what can prove to a challenging journey. In the end, providing meaningful, lasting assistance to a person with hoarding disorder nearly always requires the assistance of a team of different people. Examples of individuals on such a team include:
- Mental health professionals
- Hoarding cleanup professionals
- Clergy members
- Organizational experts
In the final analysis, when you reach out to a hoarder in denial, demonstrate love. Make it as clear as possible that you care about and do love your family member or friend that is laboring under hoarding disorder. A quote from Zig Ziglar does provide some guidance for you when it comes to demonstrating love for a person in your life suffering from hoarding disorder:
“The foundation stones for a balanced success are honesty, character, integrity, faith, love, and loyalty.”