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Interview with Professor Nick Neave - hoarding awareness

30th May 2024

In its 10th anniversary, National Hoarding Awareness Week took place in May with a theme focusing on ‘Then and Now’ regarding education and awareness of the disorder. 

The week is a stakeholder awareness campaign across the political, health and social care communities to raise awareness of the risks associated with hoarding.

 It aims to spread more widely an awareness of hoarding facts, promote greater understanding and acceptance across those who can influence change through education, and encourage a stronger tendency for key influencers to support and promote at key moments.

In conversation with BBC Radio Newcastle, Professor Nick Neaves gave insight into the possible causes of hoarding and deriving from his research, he discusses the effects of living with hoarding on individuals and their friends and family.

The full interview is available online here, but here are some of the key takeaways.

 

Hoarding

Hoarding is a recognised mental health condition, associated with anxiety and depression which can ruin people’s lives.

The definition of hoarding is someone who accumulates too much stuff and attaches sentimental labels to these objects. This makes it difficult for them to disregard things they no longer need which results in clutter affecting their quality of life.

There are also different types of hoarding, including digital hoarders and animal hoarding.

 

Hoarder or collector?

Hoarders tend to be different from collectors, collectors accumulate specific ‘sets of things’ and their motivations are different from people who hoard who tend to treat possessions as a kind of ‘comfort blanket’.

Collecting also tends to be “finite” and there is a clear end, whereas the items that people can hoard tend to be unlimited.

 

Causes

The exact cause of hoarding requires more research, however people who hoard have incredibly strong attachment to every item and associate it with emotion, significance, memory.

In some cases, hoarders transfer their need for security, certainty and reassurance onto objects where they have lacked to get these things from other people. In fact some people who hoard come to associate people with trauma, stress, abuse and uncertainty.

These behaviours that have been there for many years become ingrained.  In many cases hoarders have experienced some kind of trauma in their past, typically childhood. The loss of a parent/parents, abuse, lack of certainty over basic needs such as food, shelter or affection.

There can also be very close links with conditions such as autism, OCD, anxiety, depression, poor working memory. How they all interact we don’t yet fully understand.

 

Effects

Hoarders end up with clutter, most of which will take over their living quarters and make it difficult for them to lead normal lives. Due to the stigma surrounding hoarding they may feel ashamed of the way they live and hide it from friends/family/colleagues by isolating themselves and withdrawing from others.

People who hoard also may experience depression, anxiety, and helplessness from feeling overwhelmed and/or not knowing how to improve their lives or where to get help.

 

Support available for hoarders

There are many options available for people to get help with their hoarding disorder. This can be through more “traditional” routes such as going to their GP and getting a diagnosis. Whilst this may be beneficial to some, other may prefer accessing help from charities and local organisations.

Some organisation mentioned by Professor Neave include Hoarding UK, Hoarding Disorders UK and Clouds End. These organisations have resources, support services and people available to talk.

 

Additional resources:

National Hoarding Awareness Week

What is hoarding? - Mind

https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/conditions/hoarding-disorder/

 

Dr Nick Neave is a Professor within the Department of Psychology. He is Director of the Hoarding Research Group, and Chair of the UK Hoarding Partnership. With his colleague Claire Murphy-Morgan he runs a support group for people who hoard, which meets at Bensham Grove Community Centre on the first Monday of the month from 11am-1pm.

*Image Credit: gettyimages/trekandshoot.

 

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