Though dramatized and misunderstood due to the media, the health risks of hoarding are very real. Such an overtaking disorder can be detrimental to an individual’s health, even in minor cases.
Unfortunately, people living in a hoarder home can be exposing themselves to poor air quality, fungal illnesses, and filthy pest infestations. Their living conditions can be hazardous, risking physical injury each and every day. And to make matters worse, hoarding disorder can cause the person suffering to withdraw from their loved ones. Withdrawl can lead to depression and other mental health struggles.
At Just Rubbish Removal, we are all too familiar with the health risks of hoarding.
Continue reading to get familiar with hoarding disorder and the dangers it entails. And know that we are on your side and ready to help remove the hazardous clutter when the time is right.
What it’s Like to be a Hoarder
Think of a time when you held onto a possession because you may find a use for it in the future. Or perhaps you didn’t want to let go of an object that reminded you of sweet memories.
Now, imagine having that same attachment to everything you own- from expired pantry foods to old newspapers. Unfortunately, this is a glimpse into the world of an individual suffering from hoarding disorder.
The emotional attachment hoarding individuals experience causes them to hold onto their possessions. In turn, their home may become a mess with their collected items and essentially take over their lives.
And like many other mental health disorders, hoarding can be on a spectrum. Some people experience extreme attachment and intense emotional connections to their possessions. Still, others struggle to a lesser degree.
The most extreme cases occur when the health risks of hoarding become dangerous for the individual and any other household members. To identify hoarding disorder, the experts look for the following symptoms.
- Unable to get rid of items
- High stress when confronted about throwing out their possessions
- Anxious about needing their objects for future use
- Disorganized and unable to find proper places for all their items
- Not trusting others with their possessions
- Spaces in the home are unusable due to clutter
- Withdrawal from loved ones because of shame and embarrassment
The Health Risks of Hoarding
When hoarding disorder is most severe, a person’s life will be significantly harmed. Not only are they prone to significant physical health concerns, like poor air quality and fall risk. But their overall quality of life decreases. In the following paragraphs, we address three areas of the health risks of hoarding:
- Personal health
- Safety Hazards
- Quality of life
1 | Personal Health
A hoarding individual’s health can be compromised because of their disorder.
Of course, these unhealthy conditions do not appear overnight. After many years of consistent collecting and the gradual growing of piles, regular cleaning becomes more difficult to keep up with.
As a result, we begin to see the health risks of hoarding. There may be mold growth, pest infestations, poor sanitation, and low air quality.
Mold and Mildew Growth
In some cases, the hoarder has difficulties parting with food, regardless of whether it has expired. The refrigerator may be full of spoiling food. And for many, the fridge becomes another place to store random non-food possessions, leaving the individual with no proper refrigeration for food items.
Plus, extreme clutter can lead to high humidity due to blocked vents and other functional issues. Spills are not as easily noticed and cleaned up.
And with the presence of moisture and nutrients, mold and mildew typically grow. Fungal growth exposes the hoarding individual and other household members, including pets, to significant health concerns. For instance, mold exposure can result in flu-like illness, causing people to cough, have itchy skin and eyes, etc.
Unfortunately, a hoarder’s home is the perfect nesting site for many pesky home invaders. Insects like silverfish, roaches, flies, and ants gain attraction from damp and dark environments with plenty of hiding spots. Not to mention mice, rats, and other small mammals find shelter in a hoarder’s home.
Rotting food, excessive paper material, and the presence of other pests make a hoarder’s clutter paradise for critters of all kinds. Plus, the piles hide evidence of pest infestations. Because of this, the hoarder is unaware of the severity of their pest problems.
Pest infestations are one of the most alarming health risks of hoarding. Many of these insects and animals carry and spread harmful diseases. Also, several defend themselves by biting or stinging, leading to further health issues.
Pests can spread hazardous diseases, including:
- West Nile Virus (mosquitos)
- Lyme Disease (ticks)
- E. coli
Poor Sanitation and Air Quality
Air quality issues arise when excessive dust, odors, and decaying waste is present. This poses some of the greatest health risks of hoarding. People living in a hoarder’s home can experience respiratory problems from compromised air quality.
Air quality is such a concern in hoarding homes that those responsible for cleaning up the space must wear masks and specialized gear to protect themselves from the contaminants.
Additionally, sanitation throughout the home suffers. And in the cases where animals are hoarded, poor sanitation is most severe. Although well intended, individuals who collect animals will have so many that providing proper care becomes impossible.
Nevertheless, they keep their pets and will likely collect more. A high concentration of animals living in a hazardous space can lead to a slew of health concerns. In many cases, animal waste is not cleaned up, illness is spread rapidly, and even a diseased animal can go unnoticed.
Over time, these conditions can be detrimental to the hoarder’s well-being.
2 | Safety Hazards
Because of the massive piles and excessive clutter, navigating the home can be challenging. From collapsing stacks of possessions to obstructed pathways, the risk of injury is high. And not only for the hoarder but for anyone who steps foot inside, including plumbers and other professionals necessary to the home’s function.
Part of struggling with hoarding disorder is being unable to organize and store their massive collections of things properly. In turn, the objects pile up, and, over time, these towering stacks become unstable.
The piles can easily collapse from pulling from the stack or knocking into it. At the very least, the individual is left with minor scrapes and bruises. However, when heavy or sharp objects come toppling down, people can become severely injured.
Collapsing piles become one of the most dangerous health risks of hoarding when the hoarder lives alone. Even if they are able to call for help, rescuers have a hard time getting through the mess to save them, putting their safety and health in peril.
Additionally, in the case of an emergency, people living inside a hoarder’s home may not be able to escape as quickly as they need to. For example, excessive amounts of hoarded paper and furniture can lead to a fire. Just imagine the difference between running from a fire in a severely cluttered home versus a clear and organized dwelling.
3 | Quality of Life
Aside from more traditional health risks of hoarding, people suffering from this disorder will experience a negative impact on their overall quality of life.
Hoarding goes much deeper than simply not wanting to let go of precious possessions. In many ways, the disorder is fear-based. For instance, the individual fears they will need the items for future scenarios and refuses to give them up. Likewise, they fear the memories that the objects hold will disappear if the object is thrown out.
That being said, to fully understand hoarding disorder, you must realize the extent of its impact. In severe cases, these fears are evident in other areas of the person’s life. They are embarrassed and ashamed of their disorder and feel helpless in their situation.
Unfortunately, this leads to withdrawal from family and friends. And with isolation, their disorder can intensify. Hoarding disorder goes hand in hand with many other mental health struggles, like:
- Agoraphobia, or a fear of leaving their home
- Fear of rejection and judgment
How Just Rubbish Removal Can Help with the Health Risks of Hoarding
No one wants to watch their loved one suffer from such an overtaking and unhealthy disorder. And convincing a hoarder that their habits are dangerous and that it’s time to make a change is much easier said than done.
It’s important to be gentle and understanding of their situation. Most of the time, professional help is necessary to work with the hoarder and effectively recover from the disorder.
And when you and your suffering loved one are ready, you’ll need a trusted team of experts to remove the mess and clean out hazardous materials. Know that Just Rubbish Removal is on your side and eager to do our part.
We have been cleaning up New York for over ten years now. Whether it’s a whole hoarded house or just one or two rooms, we have you covered. Our staff is fully licensed and trained to remove the clutter safely and efficiently.
For an understanding and considerate hoarder home clean-out, contact Just Rubbish Removal today.