Hoarding is most commonly related to obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). OCD is characterised by recurring unwanted thoughts and images (obsessions) and repetitive behavioural and mental rituals (compulsions). For example, a person with OCD may be obsessed with the fear of contamination from germs and dirt and, to cope with their anxiety, may compulsively wash their hands until they are raw. OCD can severely reduce a person’s quality of life and damage their relationships with others. It can be difficult, demanding and exhausting to live with a person who has OCD.
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Offer support and understanding
A person who has OCD is hard to live with, and you may find yourself getting angry, upset and frustrated from time to time. However, this won’t improve the situation. Suggestions include:
- Find out as much as you can about OCD and its treatment options. You are less likely to feel bewildered or irritated by the person’s behaviour if you understand it.
- Try not to blame the person for their condition.
- Encourage the person to seek professional help.
- Offer them your support.
- Don’t express embarrassment or shame about the person’s symptoms, especially when you and the person are with other people.
- Involve yourself in their treatment program whenever possible – for example, attend family therapy sessions.
- If their motivation wanes, and they consider stopping treatment, remind them of the gains they have made.
Don’t reinforce the obsessive compulsive behaviours
Sometimes, you may accommodate the person’s obsessive and compulsive behaviours because you want to help them. However, this will only reinforce their disorder. Suggestions include:
- Maintain a normal household routine whenever possible.
- Talk openly about the unwanted behaviours, and devise ways to cope with them together and as a family. Tell the person you aren’t going to involve yourself in those behaviours any more.
- If the person wants you to assist them in their behaviours, remind them that you will not get involved. Try to be calm, loving and reasonable when you refuse.
- It might be hard to resist if the person is upset, but you need to be strong. Remember that reinforcing the obsessive compulsive behaviours will only worsen the symptoms.
- Encourage other family members to be strong.
Make time for yourself
You need to take care of yourself too. Suggestions include:
- Attend a support group for families in similar situations.
- Try not to let the person’s behaviour curb your life – maintain hobbies and outside interests whenever possible.
- Regular stress management, such as exercise or meditation, may be helpful.
When the person who has OCD refuses treatment
A person who has OCD may be reluctant to seek professional help. Usually this is because they are frightened by the stigma that surrounds mental illness – for example, they may think that only ‘crazy’ people have to take psychiatric drugs. They may also fear becoming addicted to medications, or showing themselves to be weak because they can’t deal with their problem on their own. In some cases, the person is afraid to give up their obsessions and compulsions. Suggestions for family members and friends include:
- Don’t bully or ridicule them – strong-arm tactics won’t work.
- Make sure the person is well-informed about OCD and its treatments.
- Reassure them that OCD is a recognised and treatable illness.
- Stress that knowing when to seek help is actually a sign of strength, not weakness.
- Seek advice from professionals and support groups on your own, if necessary.
- Sometimes, despite your best efforts, you have to accept there’s nothing you can do to encourage the person to seek help – in this case, you need to find avenues of support and strength for yourself.
- If you think the person is in danger of hurting themselves or someone else, call your doctor or the police.
Things to remember
- Get informed about hoarding and OCD and its treatment options – you are less likely to feel bewildered or irritated by the person’s behaviour if you understand it.
- Remember that reinforcing the obsessive compulsive behaviours will only worsen the symptoms.
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I wouldn't hesitate to recommend the cluttered house clearance company, the team worked extra hard to clear my late aunts hoarded house in Barnet. The team were very patient with me and managed to clear the whole house within just 3 days. 5*** company.
A massive thank you to the guys at the cluttered house clearance company who cleared my mums extremely hoarded house last week in Tower Hamlets. It took two and a half days to completely clear her home, it was piled floor to ceiling with clutter, food waste and vermin, the team have been reliable, hard working and have provided a fast and discreet service throughout. Well done.
Just wanted to say thanks to the specialists at the cluttered house clearance company. Professional, hard working and honest. Only 3 days to clear a large hoarded house from top to bottom in London. Many many thanks guys.