Q:

How can you help a hoarder?

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Quick Answer

Some steps to helping a hoarder include establishing trust, suggesting practical changes in behavior, citing expert sources about the dangers of hoarding, and offering the hoarder alternatives. Hoarding is generally classified as an anxiety disorder in which people compulsively collect and hoard items in order to feel safe.

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Full Answer

Establishing trust is the first step to helping a hoarder. Hoarding is a complex mental coping mechanism that operates according to its own logic. Forcefully removing a hoarder's possessions can cause serious mental distress and lead to more hoarding, so it's important to establish a level of communication and empathy before proceeding. Rather than attacking hoarding behavior, try to better understand it, and then start suggesting changes.

Even when trust is established, it’s important not to expect dramatic changes immediately. Start with small, practical suggestions, such as removing possessions from around the oven in order to cook a meal, rather than suggesting massive changes. Hoarders have their own sense of logic, but they can often be influenced by what experts have to say, especially in the case of animal hoarding. Talking to hoarders about the genuine health hazards of their habit, especially using professional testimony, can often help them realize how they are hurting themselves or their animals.

Finally, offering hoarders options can help deal with the problem productively. Rather than forcefully removing their possessions, discuss options such as therapy, donating some items to charity, or putting certain items in storage.

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