Hoarding and OCD

Meaningful Matters - Eastbourne Herald

I really enjoy a good rummage at Boot sales and I was also a great fan of their predecessor, the jumble sale. I used to acquire all sorts of ‘treasures’; usually stuff I really didn’t need but thought that someday might be useful. Many of us can have a tendency to hang on to our surplus belongings so when charity bags regularly come through the letterbox it’s a great opportunity to have a good clear out. It is estimated that around 2-5% of the UK adult population experiences symptoms of compulsive hoarding and for some people discarding items can be emotionally overwhelming.

The coroner at the inquest into the death of a woman that died in a fire at her home has criticised television programmes for trivialising the condition of compulsive hoarding. Firefighters had to spend 30 minutes tunnelling through the floor to ceiling stacks of rubbish trying to rescue her. The inquest heard that 65 year old Ann Bradshaw might have survived the blaze had emergency services got to her sooner.

Although the reasons why someone begins hoarding are still not fully understood there is now a greater awareness about this problem. Hoarding is also often associated with anxiety and depression; it is believed that there are three categories of hoarding, ‘prevention of harm hoarding’, ‘deprivation hoarding’ and ‘emotional hoarding’. People with hoarding difficulties may suffer from obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).

If a member of your family or someone you know is a compulsive hoarder, try to encourage them to seek help in the first instance by visiting their GP. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends that a period of cognitive behavioural therapy is considered for adults who have significant problems with hoarding.

OCD-UK (www.ocduk.org) is the national charity, independently working with and for almost one million children and adults whose lives are affected by Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). You can contact them for advice and support by email support@ocduk.org or telephone 0345 120 3778/0845 120 3778.