Animal hoarding is more commonplace in Southern California and across the United States than most people realize. There are a number of situations that can aggravate an animal hoarding situation. Among these scenarios involve unemployment and financial distress.

Overview of the Essential Elements of Animal Hoarding

Animal hoarding is defined as keeping a higher than usual number of animals, typically at a person’s residence. The number of animals is of such a number that they cannot properly be cared for by the person keeping these animals. A person engaged in animal hoarding denies his or her inability to properly care for these animals. Indeed, such an individual may perceive that he or she is providing good care and protecting these animals from danger. Compulsive animal hoarding is characterized as a mental illness and not an attempt to a person with hoarding disorder to engage in deliberate cruelty to animals, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Hoarding as a Psychological Response To Traumatic Events

Researchers have come to the conclusion that hoarding disorder oftentimes arises when an individual experiences a traumatic life event. Examples of these traumatic life events include:

  • Death of a spouse or other close loved one
  • Divorce
  • Loss of job
  • Major health issue

Specific Types of Common Mental Health Conditions Associated With Unemployment

Mental health treatment professionals have identified a number of different mental health conditions and emotional issues that can arise when an individual is unemployed and faces financial distress. These include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Loss of purpose
  • Insecurity

Animal hoarding itself is not a commonplace mental health condition associated with unemployment and financial distress like those mentioned here. With that said, there is a noticeable increase in the incidence of animal hoarding among people who have experienced unemployment and associated financial distress. Moreover, depression, anxiety, loss or purpose, and insecurity present a perfect storm from which animal hoarding can arise.

Before diving deeper into unemployment, financial distress, and animal hoarding, a brief discussion of these four mental health conditions and emotional issues is presented.

Depression

Depression is one of the two most commonplace mental health conditions that can develop when a person loses his or her job and ends up in financial distress. Depression suffered by an unemployed person can become quite profound in many cases. The lack of a job nearly always upends a person’s life in innumerable different ways. In fact, a fair statement is that it’s surprising that more people don’t become seriously depressed when they lose their jobs.

Anxiety

The second of the two most commonplace mental health issues that can arise when a person becomes unemployed is anxiety. Anxiety can develop relatively quickly in the aftermath of unemployment and the associated financial distress. 

An unemployed person is faced with extreme challenges that include everything from making financial ends meet to a deep loss of purpose in life upon losing a job. These severe challenges tend to mount and become aggravated over time. Ultimately, a person’s anxiety can become virtually if not actually overwhelming for an unemployed individual. 

Loss of Purpose

As noted a moment ago, when a person becomes unemployed, that individual can lose a sense of purpose. In 21st century America, a person’s job tends to be at the heart of his or her life. Many people actually find much of their identity, sense of self, and overall worth from their jobs. When that is stripped away, the loss of purpose can be profound.

Insecurity

Unemployment can completely destabilize a person’s life. For example, the level of financial insecurity and distress is apt to be significant. An unemployed person’s financial instability and overall insecurity can extend from such major issues to concerns about maintaining shelter to worries about being able to properly feed their families. 

How Hoarding Disorder Arises When Facing Unemployment and Financial Distress

The reality that hoarding disorder can arise at precisely the point in a person’s life when an individual is in the worst position to care for animals may seem incongruous. In fact, the development of animal hoarding when a person is least able to financially care for animals in fact is incongruous. 

An overarching point that must be made is that animal hoarders see themselves as being uniquely suited to provide care and comfort to animals. They hold this belief even when objectively speaking it is obvious that the animals they’ve hoarded are not being properly cared for and may very well be in poor condition.

Some psychological researchers have concluded that a person may develop hoarding disorder after the trauma of becoming unemployed for a number of interconnected reasons:

  • Hoarding animals gives an unemployed person a sense of purpose. As noted a moment ago, one of the emotional responses to losing a job is a loss of purpose.
  • The presence of a significant number of animals may actually serve to alleviate depression (at least to some degree) from an unemployed person who has been in a depressive state. 
  • On a related note, despite the chaos that is associated with a residence filled with animals, an animal hoarder may actually experience a lessening of anxiety by hoarding animals.
  • Finally, the presence of a larger number of animals may provide an animal hoarder a sense of security. This sense of security may exist even though responsibility for a large number of animals when unemployed and in financial distress actually renders a person objectively less secure in a number of different ways.