Hoarding Disorder or Collecting? How to Tell The Difference!


Hoarding Disorder 1

Hoarding Disorder or Collecting?

Sometimes, it's hard to tell . ..

Many people question what the difference is between someone who has a hoarding disorder versus someone who is an enthusiastic “collector.” That actually is a very good question which requires some explanation because it is sometimes difficult to know who is an eccentric person with a novel collection and someone who has a serious problem. There are times when the lines can appear to be blurred.

Collecting is a natural human instinct. Everyone has that tendency in one way or another. Part of the instinct is driven by the need to have items necessary for survival in the event of lean times or times of hardship. However, as with many things, a naturally good “instinct” can develop to an unhealthy level in some, which can lead to a hoarding disorder.

As a society, we celebrate “collecting” and “collections.” Whether it’s antique cars, Santas, cookie jars, salt and pepper shakers, etc., people love to collect items. HGTV, decorating books and antique magazines often show homes of collectors that have items which are beautifully displayed (Google Jay Leno’s garage for an idea on car collecting)!

There are, however, “collecting disorders” that are similar to hoarding disorders but are expressed in various ways. There is a difference between someone who has 1,000 cookie jars displayed, dusted and cared for and someone who “collects” too many animals and lacks the time, money and ability to care for them. Each has their own set of mental and emotional characteristics. The word “hoarding” has such a negative connotation to it that many people, who really are “hoarding” say they are simply “collecting.”

Hoarding Disorder 2

So how can you tell if someone has a hoarding disorder?

I did some research, and based on the information found, I thought I would provide you with some general “guidelines” for you to use to determine whether the collecting has turned into ahoarding disorder. Please realize these are only guidelines. Please also realize that I am not a mental health professional. If you feel someone you know or a family member may have a hoarding disorder problem, please be sure to seek out professional help!

You collections are NOT likely a problem under the following circumstances:

  1. Your life is functioning well over all.
  2. You are paying your debtors and taxes on time.
  3. Friends and family are able to visit.
  4. Repair and service people are able to come to your home when needed.
  5. You keep your collections in a well organized fashion and in good condition.
  6. You know how many items are in your collection.
  7. Your collections give you real “joy” and not “distress.”
  8. Your home is clean, orderly and you are able to use the spaces in your home and the furniture in it for their intended purposes.

No problems with hoarding disorder here.

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Your “collection(s)” ARE likely to be a hording or collecting disorder if one or more of the following states are true:

  1. You are not able to use some of the spaces in your home or your furniture for their intended purposes. Examples: Your floors are so crowded with your “collections” that you cannot easily walk; or, you cannot use your kitchen to cook in because all of the collections are getting in the way.
  2. You are unable to properly take care of your “collections.” Examples: You have a “collection” of animals, but are unable to pay proper attention to them and/or house, feed, water and give proper medical attention to them.
  3. You cannot keep your “collections” in good condition and clean.
  4. Your “collections” are often in the way and keep you from doing things you would otherwise choose to do.
  5. You are not able to display and/or properly store your collections to protect them.
  6. You feel “driven” to collect or feel like you “have to” or cannot stop collecting.
  7. Your “collections” keep you from having normal relationships with family and friends.
  8. You want to let go of things, but feel you cannot. If the thought of “letting go” of your “collections” causes you to have a panic attack or feel great fear.
  9. You are embarrassed to have repairmen, service people, police, fire, etc. come to your home.
  10. You feel like your life is revolving around your “collections.”
  11. You feel overwhelmed instead of overjoyed when you really look at your collections.
  12. You don’t feel proud to show your collections to others.
  13. You start having financial problems directly related to collecting, such as not paying your bills or taxes ever or on time regularly.

A “healthy” collector will have the time, money, space and storage necessary to actually take care of the items they collect. They know the value of their collections and try to preserve their true value. A “healthy” collector will sell the collection if they loose interest or feel that no longer want to take care of it.

If you feel your collection(s) are taking over your life or, if you feel you are being negatively impacted in any way by them, consider reevaluating whether you may have deeper issues and consider getting professional help to help you take back control of your life.

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