Hoarding Disorder is now recognized by the American Psychiatric Association as a mental disorder. The DSM-V, which will be released in spring 2013, will contain the addition of Hoarding Disorder. This article is not meant to stand in for psychiatric or psychological advice. Rather, the goal of this article is to help you to know if you should seek medical attention for a possible hoarding disorder.
1. The “stuff” in your house is more than clutter. According to psychologist Gail Steketee of Boston University, “A lot of people have a catchall drawer or closet or even an entire room for extra stuff. It’s when you let it take over two, three, or more rooms that you run into problems.”
2. You are unable to throw away possessions. You experience severe anxiety when faced with throwing away possessions, even if friends and family consider them to be garbage.
3. Your possessions have taken over your living space. Maybe you have only a path through your living area available for walking through. Maybe your couch, table, or bed are covered in stuff, and there is just nowhere to put all of it. Perhaps you no longer can reach your bed, so you’re stuck sleeping on the couch.
4. You can’t use your appliances or plumbing fixtures anymore. The refrigerator, perhaps, is full of mold. The sink is full of dishes that you just cannot manage. The cat has made the bathroom sink its new litter box. Daily functions, like cooking and bathing, are almost impossible in your house, so you’re relying on takeout and microwave meals.
5. You feel embarrassed by your possessions. You feel uncomfortable when other people see your possessions. You dread having friends or family enter your house. Unlike collectors, who are proud of their collections, you are ashamed of yours.
6. You’re suspicious of other people touching your possessions. After visits from family or friends, you check the trash for discarded possessions of yours. Even if you find your possessions to be unmanageable, you feel anxious when others offer to help you to clean up. Sometimes you even check the trash when you’ve taken it out, just in case you threw something out that you consider to be a possession.