by Mariska Knoesen
We hear people talk about hoarding; we see television shows covering events of people who have serious hoarding issues in both the USA and England. It made me wonder whether hoarding is a problem in South Africa too.
What is hoarding exactly? The definition of a hoarder is someone who purchases, acquires, searches and saves items of little to no value in a compulsive manner. Such a person will avoid throwing away used newspapers, magazines, empty plastic bottles, empty glass jars, empty food tins, household supplies and even food and clothing. In severe cases hoarders have no place to sit, sleep, bath or eat. They are socially isolated, get aggressive when people touch their possessions, have obsessive thoughts about their possessions and may have functional impairments.
People hoard for various reasons, most commonly because they believe the items they collect may be used in the future by themselves or others. Some items may have sentimental value and are seen as things that cannot possibly be replaced. Most commonly people with collect as obsessively simply can’t decide what to do with things and decide that it is easiest to store it in any place in the home.
From the above you may possibly have self diagnosed a family member or even yourself as a person who hoards. However, you shouldn’t confuse collecting with hoarding. People who collect things are proud of the items they acquire and they take great care in displaying those items. They also clean them regularly and ensure they are safely stowed away. A hoarder has no pride in the possessions he or she stores. In fact, people who suffer from this are usually very embarrassed about their homes and the accumulation of unused, inconsequential and useless items.
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The sad truth is that hoarding is a disease which is directly related to anxiety disorders. It interferes with a person’s personal hygiene, sleeping and mental health. The anxiety that a person experiences which stems directly from the fear of throwing something away is quite severe and should not be taken lightly.
Back to the question; is hoarding a problem among South Africans? According to studies it is a rare occurrence in our country. Only about 2% of the population has been diagnosed as serious hoarders according to the SA Depression and Anxiety Group. Within this 2% of the people in our country who are hoarders are those who hoard animals. They keep too many pets within their homes or yards that is legally allowed and usually results in the NSPCA removing the animals for their own good. This is especially traumatic on the person as humans form closer ties to living things than inanimate items.
It is important to be aware of the warning signs and for all citizens to identify that hoarders suffer from depression and need professional help and the assistance of family and friends. Taking small steps with them like invitations to days out of their homes can make a big difference.
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