Most people used to think of hoarding as a harmless eccentricity; however, this compulsion has been linked to mental illnesses like OCD and schizophrenia. Recently, compulsive hoarding has begun to receive attention in schizophrenia research.
Schizophrenics often collect things at random, filling their homes with items that might mean something or fulfill some hidden or unknown longing. It could also be random garbage collected with no thought to its use or purpose. The hoarding schizophrenic collects these items, has trouble parting with them, and allows the home to be overrun with clutter.
Schizophrenia Symptoms and Hoarding
Although there is little research on the links between schizophrenia and hoarding, there are several symptoms of schizophrenia that could cause hoarding:
- Delusion. Some people with schizophrenia because of particular delusions. Some schizophrenics can have paranoid delusions about people stealing their belongings.
- Disorganized thought. People with extremely disorganized thinking may not be able to take proper care of their possessions. They may not have the mental capacity to be able to organize their belongings and throw things away, so their belongings accumulate.
- Impulsive or compulsive behavior. Schizophrenia has been linked to both impulsive behaviors and compulsive behaviors. A hoarding schizophrenic might buy items on impulse, and then be compelled to keep the items even if they have no value or purpose.
How Families Can Help
Hoarding can put family members of a schizophrenic in a hard position, knowing that their loved one is acting in a destructive manner, but not sure what they should do about it. They can see that hoarding is a terrible problem, but their loved one cannot.
Do not become confrontational over the clutter and filth. That will just cause your loved one to become defensive. Also, don’t just hire someone to come in and clean up while they are out of the home. If you just come in and clean the house, you don’t do anything to treat the underlying hoarding disorder.
One family member should be designated to approach the patient and talk about what motivates the hoarding. Be empathetic and listen to the other person’s perspective.
Talking and listening can help you figure out ways to show your loved one how hoarding keeps her from enjoying life. For example, she might want her grandchildren to come visit, but you can show that children will be unable to get into the house or find a place to sit or safely play due to the hoarded clutter.
Helping link the hoarding to some emotional goal can help motivate treatment. The key is: Nothing is going to happen until the person is ready to change.